Technology can do some strange voodoo. It was used to disrupt the taxi and the hotel industries. The two biggest players in those respective spaces don’t own any taxis or hotels.
You’d think the energy industry—which has always been closely tied to technology—would be immune to disruption. Think again.
A Rock And A Hard Place
Shale shook things up first. Beginning in about 2005, new technology helped companies start to unlock new supplies of both oil and natural gas from shale basins. These innovations have driven the price of oil down from an all-time high of $145 a barrel in 2008 to less than a third of that today. And it truly was disruptive on a global scale.
It allowed highly oil-dependent countries like the United States to actually undercut OPEC and influence oil prices.
This has been great for consumers, who are loving the low prices at the gas pumps. There have been negative consequences, though. The technology that created the shale oil and natural gas boon erased billions and billions of dollars in energy company market value. It also decimated the industry, erasing millions of jobs worldwide.
Yin and yang.
Thankfully, it looks like the next round of technology that’ll dance with energy will have much more positive disruptive tendencies.
Smarter, Not Harder
New technology is creating a more consumer-friendly, decentralized electric industry. Huh?
One of our most underrated national treasures is our highly reliable power grids. They’re the envy of the rest of the world. But they were designed at a time when “diversity” was not a part of the energy industry’s vocabulary.
Today there are many different sources of energy. New technology will help us integrate them and push them through those uber-important power grids. It’ll keep energy cheap and plentiful for consumers—and it’ll allow the energy industry to embrace what used to be their competition.
It’s already helped us become more efficient in extracting fossil fuels. Now technology will allow us to complement the electricity fossil fuels create with renewable energy sources. It’s no longer just a blip on the energy radar. Did you know that about 25% of all electricity supplied to Hawaii residents is from solar energy?
New technology is crucial in helping utility companies solve the challenge of storing all the excess energy created by renewable sources like and wind farms. As unbelievable as it sounds, there are times when the price of electricity in Texas goes negative because it’s a nice, windy day. All that extra energy that’s not being used has to go somewhere. Technology is providing solutions.
That technology is also helping to create highly efficient scaled down versions of renewable energy generation sources. Most people think of solar panels stretch across acres and acres of land if you mention the term “solar farm” to them. Today, technology allows us to shrink those down to solar gardens.
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