Bye-bye fossil fuels, bye-bye

Shine on!

Bye-bye fossil fuels, bye-bye

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If you don’t think this is structural … you crazy.

Well, blow me over with a feather duster! Look at what’s coming to America. Solar:

And look at what is going away …

I sometimes fear people still don’t always get what’s going on: Cell phones for landlines. Cars and trucks for horses and buggies.
Digital for film. 

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) is out this week with some fascinating data (see above) on the changes happening in America’s electricity system. These graphs are just what they know is already committed to this year. And the EIA has been notorious for under-reporting new energy information needed to administer to America accurately. But this is clear enough. And if you don’t think this is structural … you are crazy.

What is more interesting is that this “you can’t stop renewables” fate is the destiny of all economies. What is happening to America’s energy system –– a complete overhaul of what old, polluting energy systems that took a century to build being replaced in a couple of decades –– will happen everywhere.

This is why Biden’s policy proposals to “build back better” are such a no-brainer. It’s the least we should do. Table stakes. It’s not even keeping up with the Jones. 

If America wants to be involved in this massive transition and the future climate economy then we must do more of this now. Not less. No question. We are being bested … fast.

The Chinese have worked this out. Indeed they are even taking the message and spirit to their Belt & Road Initiative. This fascinating analysis from Quartz shows that Chinese investments in Africa are greater than the next eight lenders combined. And the lion’s share of investment in Africa is in -–– you guessed it –– renewables.

If America wants to be involved in this massive transition and the future climate economy then we must do more of this now.

The current political circumstances –– from the Ukrainian crisis to the whacky weather worldwide –– are pushing us to decarbonize faster. Say what you like about China but they got the jump in this race. Time for blockers to get out of the way and the U.S. to raise its game or be left out in the cold. 

Startup story of the month:

A big deal was just announced with new thermal storage company Antora with the backing of heavyweights Chris Sacca and Bill Gates, two very different gents but smart investors. Antora’s energy storage technology is barely out of the lab but these two big investors –– through their firms Lowercase Capital and Breakthrough Energy –– plus a syndicate of other blue-chips put $50 million into the company. We at New Energy Nexus are stoked because we backed Antora through our CalSEED and Third Derivative programs over the last couple of years.

It is an offshoot of the phenomenon portrayed so graphically above. Cheap abundant wind and solar means it makes sense to zap blocks of aluminum near industrial facilities to make them super hot until you need the heat. You can sell that heat for more than electricity if you keep it hot enough, which is what Antora will do with their blocks of aluminum inside insulated trailer-sized boxes. As Antora CEO Andrew Ponec says, “It’s just like a toaster.”

Another highlight I wanted to share for the sheer joy of where this is all going is not about a single company but a trend in solar, specifically ocean-mounted solar. One great business in Singapore that opened my eyes to this opportunity is Sunseap. I had to blink to make sure I wasn’t dreaming when I saw what they do. That’s the lowest cost land to place your solar arrays on or near load centers. Not land. Water. We’ve had “flotovoltaics” for a while but mostly on dam reservoirs and the like. Now some crazy innovators are taking PV to the high seas. What will they think of next!?

By the way, I’m just launching a new climate change podcast with my friend actress Cate Blanchett via Audible where we’ll talk to out-of-the-box thinkers, innovators and some climate-aware well-knowns in the next few months. Watch this space for a link. 

Entrepreneurs … Shine on you crazy diamonds!

Written by

Danny Kennedy

Danny Kennedy is the CEO of New Energy Nexus, a clean energy startup incubator with chapters in the U.S., China, Southeast Asia, India and Uganda. He is also Managing Director of the California Clean Energy Fund overseeing the $25m for early-stage innovation companies and the $12m CalTestBed initiative. Kennedy co-founded Sungevity in 2007, the company that created remote solar design, and incubator fund Powerhouse in Oakland, CA. He is the author of Rooftop Revolution: How Solar Power Can Save Our Economy – and Our Planet – from Dirty Energy in 2012. Prior to being an entrepreneur and investor, he worked at Greenpeace on climate & energy.