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Opinion

Are we approaching the global energy future in the wrong ways?

The past several months we saw a few remarkable innovations in the low-carbon energy market. These innovations bring forth some mind shifting paradigms; they inviting us to re-examine old concepts and take a hard look at what needs to be changed.

For example, Chinese entrepreneur Zhang Yue claims we are looking at things completely from the wrong perspective : ""Our era's problem is not productivity and it's not wealth. It's not even politics or democracy. In society today - including China and all the countries of the world - we're facing the increasingly grave problem of environmental pollution."

According to Yue, the solutions is the construction of very high, very green and very clean buildings where many people can live & work (at least 2km high and capable of holding 30,000 people). With minimal impact on the environment (compared to sprawling neighbourhoods, roads, infrastructures etc) and very clean living environment, Yue believes we can alleviate up to 68% of health problems.

It may sounds like a far out dream, but he is already raising money for his first building, which is intended to be the highest in the world and will be constructed in 3-4 months.

In Tunisia, Saphon Energy is proposing that we replace all wind turbines with blade-less ones. These pose no environmental danger for birds and bats, eliminates annoying noises, and will allow us to store the energy on the spot.

I love the fact that a country like Tunisia, which just recently needed came to the world's attention with the need for aid to their oppressed people can now participate in the high scale commercial arena.

The developments in big countries are moving as well. Tata Motors unveiled the very affordable electric eMO car early this year and that ADB is in the process of transforming tricycles, took-tooks and rickshaws in the Asian region to run on electricity.

The new ways to look at green innovation –

The main components to ignite innovation are strong support to inventors and entrepreneurs from local authorities or financial groups. Without them, there is very slim chance that entrepreneurs from countries who are still barely standing on their feet will come out with technologies which will re-define the playing field.

The challenge is, of course, once you have all of those right components and drive in place, how do you minimize the risk? How do you test it and bring it up in the right moment, or what happens when you find out that a technology might be very good but there are 20 similar ones in development in various parts of the world.

I am a strong believer that competitions and cross borders open-source collaboration can be a good replacement when large government support is not available.

GE showed very nicely that with a well executed competition (Ecomagination) they can reap benefits of over $100B.

ZFEP from the UAE showed that you do not have to be in the midst of the developed world to organize a successful competition.

The open-source collaboration is just starting to gain momentum over the last couple of years, but I believe that it has significant potential to tap resources from around the world and come out with drastically innovative solutions.

Examples for some initial successes can be seen with the "3D printing open source for sustainable development" and the solar wikihouse which is one of its initial success stories.

I think the countries and players who will find the right ways to integrate such competiveness with a collaboration balance will be able to encourage and deliver results even if they do not have the huge sums to slowly nurture them over time.

The name of the game might be to come up with a whole new playing field, one that incorporates energy generation, one that has high rates of energy efficiency and low environmental impact/ pollution by design. Renewable energy is become to be one of the main forces which is re-shaping the future of the world we live in, and in many ways, to my opinion, for the better.



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