Energy Efficiency and Greenery – Today’s Hot Topic

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Energy efficiency and greenery is a hot topic. 

Solar, wind, wave, fission, electric, hybrids, batteries, etc… all these technologies are interesting and have people investing money. 

Politicians and businesses all love the topic – whichever side they are on. Yet few focus on the obvious and boring – it is not the size of the technology or even its complexity – it is what you do with it. It appears the world is reinventing the wheel, literally.

The first Porsche was electric -1900-1905 (don’t believe me- visit the Porsche museum in Stuttgart). It turns out that cars could have been (and were) electric from day one. In November 1900 the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland even sponsored an electric vehicle race (sounds familiar ?).

How about the lightbulb? We love these new lightbulbs that last forever – how innovative and cool. The oldest lightbulb that still works is 119 years old- in Livermore, California. 

It was a choice that we made to manufacture light bulbs that don’t last very long – not the limitation of the old technology. By the way- if you thought the ‘subscription’ model so loved by venture capitalists is some Silicon Valley invention, look no further than the 1920s Phoebus Cartel that controlled the manufacturing of light bulbs – so that people would regularly restock (included such industrial giants as Phillips and GE). It is one of the earliest and perhaps most successful subscription model executions (surpassed by our dependence on hydrocarbons).

What about the awesome wave energy power etc…- an application of the old hydropower ideas – particularly popular in dictatorial regimes that loved the gargantuan exhibitionism of building dams etc … (can be very bad for the environment by the way). Wind power- just visit Holland.

And finally, we come to my favourite – distributed energy networks where we all power up our own homes with mini substations. That one is a beauty as the Donald would say. 

To solve this one we first have to think of the weird football club names from Eastern Europe – like Dynamo Kyiv. Why in the world would you call a football club ‘dynamo’ rather than a more reasonable name say Chelsea or Arsenal? The answer lies in the mystique of the dynamo machine – first posited by Michael Faraday in 1831-32; subsequently made more efficient by the Germans (obviously), no lesser figure than von Siemens himself in 1867. 

The beauty of these dynamos was that they were distributed, self-operating power generators without the need for expensive centralized systems (something that people later invented to make the world more efficient). And now we are back to the future of distributed self-sufficient power generation.

In the sexy, young and full of crazy new ideas techy world, we look to the new genius of exceptional young entrepreneurs to take the energy world to where no man or woman has gone before – or have we?

Michael Rossman


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