Energy Transition Fast Forward: Scouting the Solutions for the Renewable Economy


Lausanne/Switzerland, April 13, 2015—Impact Economy has launched a report on disruptive innovation opportunities in the renewable energy industry.

The lead question was what would need to happen if we were to dramatically accelerate the energy transition under way. Which technologies should we back, and how can we get them to market much faster?

Based on a nine-month comprehensive global scouting effort for the most promising clean energy solutions and technologies around the world, the report identifies the leading types of opportunities, and formulates recommendations for investors, inventors and the public sector on how to move forward.

The report summarizes the insights gathered by means of the firm’s Exergeia Project, led by Dr. Maximilian Martin, author of the report and Founder and Global Managing Director of strategy and investment firm Impact Economy.

Global Renewable Energy

The project asked how usable energy (or in physics “exergy”) can become clean, cheap and reliably supplied in order to advance human wellbeing in our unfolding twenty-first century.

To this effect, Impact Economy identified and screened 9,238 startups and projects, assessing their potential to compete on a non-subsidy basis with fossil fuels and achieve massive market penetration, climate impact, and contribute to accelerating the energy transition.

Assessing breakthrough innovations

The search for disruptive innovations considered all energy frontiers, including energy generation, storage, transmission, energy use and waste reduction (energy efficiency) and energy distribution to end consumers. The project made a conscious effort to include unconventional ideas as well as established sources of scientific innovation, and included site visits to energy clusters and incubators, promising labs and startups, as well as scouting at select energy conferences worldwide.

“The core working assumption was that the current growth projections for renewable energy in the overall global energy mix are too unambitious compared to energy opportunities and challenges the world is facing today and will in the future. To invent our way out of these challenges, we need capital, ideas, and talent. We need to be especially attentive to enabling technologies that have a ripple effect, that are game changers. Key is also to find new ways of working together: scientists, investors, and business developers,” said Dr. Martin.

Renewable Energy Technologies

A timely contribution 

In 2015, the global community is facing an important year in global climate negotiations and investments in renewables are broadening. Next to surfacing bespoke investment opportunities via the Exergeia Project, the corresponding report is destined for a larger public.

It provides empirical insights into which practical alternative energy possibilities could come on stream in order to accelerate the energy transition and raise the share of renewables to 80+ percent in the energy mix.

The report also sheds light on the critical blockers standing in the way of a large-scale transition to using intermittent sources of renewable energy to power the global economy.

A preview of key findings 

Next to highlighting a variety of enabling technologies, the report reveals how and why:

  • Solar photovoltaics is ready for an efficiency revolution, potentially even reaching microwave range efficiencies in the infrared and optical ranges, converting sunlight to electricity and harvesting radiation at night;
  • Why it is time to graduate to big wind 2.0 and what innovative solutions there are to deal with the wake effect, re-powering, atmospheric turbulence, and harnessing high altitude so asto enable wind to supply up to 1/3 of the world’s electricity needs by 2050;
  • Why storage is the critical constraint in the energy transition and what can we do about it. How we can graduate from slow progress on a linear scale to progress more like the one known from the world of semiconducting, where progress as per Moore’s Law has completely changed the way we communicate after World War II; as well as
  • What needs to happen for e-mobility to be more than a public relations exercise and why even though energy efficiency is hardly the sexiest of topics, it would be foolish to forego this low-hanging fruit to contain primary energy demand.

“What became clear in the comprehensive search is that technology is ultimately also a question of imagination and daring. If we want cheap utility-scale renewable energy, regardless of weather conditions, we need to grasp that what is utopia today may be standard practice fifty years from now, and then engage in backward induction to fast track the most promising solutions today,” said Dr. Martin.

Given that renewable energy sources only account for about 13 percent of total global energy supply, this report provides pointers on how to ultimately invert these proportions. In a world where an estimated 1.3 billion people around the world have no access to electricity at all, and where under a business as usual scenario, containing the rise in global temperature to two degrees Celsius will be impossible, it is time to take innovation and incubation of alternative energy solutions to the next level.

“Energy Transition Fast Forward: Scouting the Solutions for the 80-100% Renewable Economy – The Exergeia Report” can be downloaded here.

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