|According to the program introduction, alternative energy accounts for one-half of one percent of all energy used today. Breaking free of the hydrocarbons, which accounts for a whopping 80 percent of energy used, has truly become a stated geopolitical concern|
|Principal Voices Speak: Renewable Energy Paramount|
|Tom Djokovich, XsunX|
To the surprise of no one reading Earthtoys, geopolitical concerns in the United States, China, India, and Japan with hydrocarbon fuels are bringing renewable energy to the forefront of governmental, if not public attention.
Recently, I attended a Principal Voices, an event hosted by CNN, FORTUNE and TIME magazines in association with Shell. It was the seventh Principal Voices event since 2005 and the third of 2006.
The stated intent of Principal Voices is to generate progressive action, explore, outline and set the course for productive change in the subjects of environment, economic development, urbanization and the collaborative corporation.
The event, held December 5 in San Francisco's historic Ferry Building, examined the latest developments in alternative energy, the growing funding environment for new energy sources and the general implications of an alternative energy future.
Panel members were Vinod Khosla, CEO of Khosla Ventures; Harrison Fraker, Dean of College of Environmental Design, Berkley; Bill Gross, founder of Idealab; and Bill Reinert, national manager of advanced technologies, Toyota, U.S. They provided overview introductions and segued smoothly into the stated areas of interest: Financing Alternatives, Innovations in New Energy, Energy Efficiency, and perhaps most interestingly, Collaboration Models for Global Integration.
According to the program introduction, alternative energy accounts for one-half of one percent of all energy used today. Breaking free of the hydrocarbons, which accounts for a whopping 80 percent of energy used, has truly become a stated geopolitical concern as the United States, China, India and Japan all depend upon hydrocarbons to run their economies.
It is widely recognized that there are powerful economics to keep the situation status quo; oil money can be seductive to policy-makers and it can be hard to break free of an existing infrastructure, especially if renewable energy solutions are not completely available, nor price competitive without subsidies.
Gross, of Idealab, presented the idea that as the sun hits the earth at 100 watts per square meter, solar power has the potential of being something that will give energy to people around world, in turn providing freedom to people. He said the future of solar energy is especially promising, which has translated to a tremendous interest in the investor marketplace. These monies are being used to expand solar options and being down the cost per kilowatt in the world market.
"The rest of the world wants power, too, and to provide 15 terawatts to 65 million people - that's 230 watts all day long for everyone on the planet - something has to be done," he said. Coal plants in China may produce power at nine cents an hour as opposed to 24 cents an hour for existing solar panels, but that, he emphasized, is not a solution.
Fraker, from the College of Environmental Design, suggested that solar, wind and biomass using land as fuel source and an aesthetic could be used together as a solution to our dependence on hydrocarbon fuel. "It is our challenge to think holistically," he said.
Invited attendees, many of whom had a stake in the advancement of alternative energies, were in agreement with the panel the next five years are crucial. Fuel prices will continue to climb and conscientious work renewable energy must continue, increasing efficiencies and decreasing cost per kilowatt.
Events like these stimulate discussion issues central to our planet, and this event in particular brought forth the latest developments in the alternative energy sector.
I really welcomed the opportunity to discuss alternative energy, especially solar power, and enjoyed discussing the tremendous innovation thin film photovoltatics will afford our future.
Future Principal Voices events will be held in New Delhi and Sydney, finishing in 2007. Findings and white papers from all events are posted online at www.principalvoices.com for global comment.
Tom M. Djokovich is the President and Chief Executive Officer of XsunX, a developer of advanced manufacturing systems and cell structures for solar energy based in Aliso Viejo, CA with its research and development facility in Golden, CO. He has over 23 years of executive management and entrepreneurial experience managing growth and innovation in both the high-tech and building industries.