Some technology evolutions fundamentally change society. Since the internet became available to the public, everyone could publish their ideas and the strongest ideas would surface thanks to a global and real-time reach. No longer were people depending on those few industrial or political influencers to endorse ideas or make the world know about you. Next to this democratization of information, the internet also completely took over as the main source of business. Today’s top 5 most valuable brands in the world are exclusively related to capitalizing on the opportunities of the internet.
There’s currently a new evolution taking place: the transition from fossil fuel to renewable electricity as main energy source. It will have an impact on society in the same disruptive manner as the internet had. We can look forward to three fundamental changes:
- From central to decentral production: Only a handful of companies supply all fossil energy used in the world, as it requires large investments (oil platforms, refineries) and a lengthy value-chain to deliver it. Renewable electricity will be generated in small quantities by many producers, most of them being consumers and small businesses. This will shift economic and political power from global to local and from a few to many. Consumers become prosumers or even new businesses.
- New business models for existing industries: Renewable energy needs to be stored when the production is high (sunny and windy days) and be made available when production is low. Batteries in electric cars can hold that energy and deliver it to places and at moments when it’s needed. Players in the automotive industry will create solutions for energy storage and this may become one of their key businesses. Energy companies may shift from producing energy to enabling others to buy and sell energy.
- New currency: Electricity, individually produced by many, may start to work in society as new currency. Like in the case of money being transferred to a bank account, one’s solar electricity may be stored in batteries and made accessible via the grid. This creates a credit which can be spent. With this credit one could pay a supplier in kWh in cases when electricity is more valuable than dollars or euros. In the early morning when the electric ovens are all working and cheap solar energy isn’t available yet, a bakery may offer you a better price for a loaf of bread when you chose to pay in kWh rather than in USD when swiping your bankcard.
Like the internet evolution, the fossil-to-electricity transition disrupts existing roles for many stakeholders in a positive way. Consumers and SMEs will have great opportunities to develop new businesses and create energy solutions tailored to local and individual needs. Global corporate players will be able climb up on the added-value ladder by providing services and rolling out standards to accelerate local developments.