A Glimpse of the Future of Energy

In our business, solar energy business, talking politics can get you into as much trouble as talking religion.

The Energy Industry (including fossils) is deeply intertwined with politics. You never know just where someone leans politically.

Everyone comes to install solar for their home or business for every conceivable reason. It’s one of the things that makes working in solar so fulfilling. You meet incredible people, doing incredible things, because they believe. They believe it’s a good investment, good for the environment, good to decentralize power, good for this and good for that.

The problem is that politics does not always follow public opinion about solar. Politics and political support can change on a whim.

It’s an exciting time to be in the solar business. Really, it always has been, but there’s this little saying you may have heard “May you live in interesting times.”

The solar business hasn’t been called the “Solar Coaster” for nothing. We’ve weathered incredible ups and downs, and we still have big fights a head of us to be able to mature as an industry.

Solar is a disruptive technology. It’s shifting power from a traditionally centralized architecture, to a highly distributed model. It’s going to take a lot of innovation to get solar from where it is today to something as ubiquitous as a computer or a cell phone. But it’s already happening.

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of listening to a brief talk by Rocky Mountain Institute CEO Jules Kortenhorst at the CleanTech Annual Meeting. I’m reading everything RMI puts out these days. If you want to follow thought leaders in the future of energy, this is the group to follow.

2011, RMI published Reinventing Fire. It is a bold look at the near future where Distributed Energy Resources (DER), like solar and efficiency, reshape the energy landscape. The people in the room with me yesterday morning are working towards making that future a reality.

We’re not working in cleantech because of some overarching vision handed down to us, but because each of us, for our own reasons, are trying to move to a future filled with hope. A hope that we can find a way we can live our lives that renews and reinvigorates the environment and the economy.

Often people get together at an event like the annual meeting to make connections, find investors, or friends. To me it’s a chance to take a break from working in the trenches and see what’s happening in the outside world. What I see happening out there are lots of brilliant people working to make energy production and consumption more democratic. To put more power into the hands of more people. It is a wildly exciting time to be in solar, and I’m glad we get to be a part of it.