Fossil fuels, utilities, petrol cars to be obsolete by 2030

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Stanford University’s Tony Seba has a dramatic prognosis: Silicon Valley will make oil, nuclear, natural gas, coal, electric utilities and conventional cars obsolete by 2030. And Australia will lead the way and be the shape of things to come.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Last year, in an interview with Stanford University’s Tony Seba, we foreshadowed the remarkable conclusions of his new book: that energy and transportation as we know it will be history by 2030.

That book, the Clean Disruption of Energy and Transportation,tony seba book is now published, and it has even more dramatic prognosis: Silicon Valley will make oil, nuclear, natural gas, coal, electric utilities and conventional cars obsolete by 2030.  And Australia – with its high solar penetration – will lead the way be the shape of things to come.

What’s more, Seba says it might happen even earlier than 2030.

He’s not the only person to predict this transformation. Jeremy Grantham agrees, and many in the utilities industry see the same risks. Paul Gilding has made similar predictions.

“Clean energy (solar and wind) is free,” Seba writes. “Clean transportation is electric and uses clean energy derived from the sun and wind. The key to the disruption of energy lies in the exponential cost and performance improvement of technologies that convert, manage, store, and share clean energy. The clean disruption is also about software and business model innovation.”

Seba says the energy architecture of the future will be completely different from the one today.It will be distributed, mobile, intelligent, and participatory and will overturn the existing energy architecture, which is centralized, command-and-control oriented, secretive, and extractive.

“The conventional energy model is about Big Banks financing Big Energy to build Big Power Plants or refineries in a few selected places. The new architecture is about everyone financing everyone to build smaller, distributed power plants everywhere.”

The end of the existing energy business model

The existing energy business model – based on scarcity, depletion, and command-and-control monopolies – will be replaced by abundant, cheap, and participatory energy.

tony sebaSeba argues that given the exponential cost improvement of these technologies, the disruption is inevitable, and it will be swift. “It will be over by 2030. Maybe before,” Seba writes.

“Oil, natural gas (methane), coal, and uranium will simply become obsolete for the purposes of generating significant amounts of electricity and powering the automobile.”

“In twenty years we’ll wonder how we put up with the horrendous consequences of the incumbent, conventional, $8 trillion-a-year energy industry. If Nikola Tesla and Thomas Alva Edison rose from the dead, they would recognize the industry that they helped build a century ago — and they would be disappointed at how little it has changed.”

Australia is shape of things to come

Seba argues that the first wave of energy disruption has already begun with distributed solar and wind generation.

Australia, he says, is a leader and the “shape of things to come”. From having virtually no solar in 2008, it now has more than 3GW on 1.4 million rooftops (I’ve updated his year-old data).

If the US, for instance, had Australia’s (end of 2012) 11 per cent solar penetration, there would be 13.6 million solar homes, 50 times its current number. South Australia and Queensland now have over 20 per cent penetration rates.

So what happens to a power utility when users start generating their own solar energy?

1. Demand for utility energy drops. As users generate their own energy, they buy less from the utility.

2. Competition increases. The utility competes with myriad solar installers.

3. Utility revenues drop. As demand drops and competition increases, the

utilities make less money

4. Utility margins drop disproportionately. Solar generates the most energy

during peak pricing billing cycles, which undercuts the power utility’s highest margin products.

All of which we have seen clearly in Australia, and which underlines the opposition to the renewable energy target, and solar incentives in particular, from generators. Networks are now looking to prevent solar being exported back on to the grid.

Seba quotes former GE chief executive Jack Welch: “If the rate of change on the outside is greater than the rate of change on the inside, the end is near”. ‘

But the impact of solar – which is competing with the cost of conventional technology in many countries -– is just one aspect.

Other waves of innovation will also sweep through the incumbents. It is starting to occur in electric vehicles, and will continue with the self driving car. Transportation will never be the same again. And the evolution will continue with more intelligent devices

The energy industry and its Kodak moment

To illustrate his point, Seba points to the Kodak experience. The age of film photography did not end because the world ran out of film, or components to make film or film cameras. It was destroyed by rapid improvements in digital imaging and information technologies, disruptive business models, and a participatory culture with which industry leaders Kodak and Fujifilm simply could not compete.

The energy and transportation industries have a business model similar to Kodak’s. Every time you flip a switch to turn on a light, more cash is paid to the utility. Every flip of the switch involves burning coal, oil, gas, or uranium and, again more cash for resource-based energy suppliers.

“Every time you press the gas pedal in your car, you give cash to the oil industry. Substituting natural gas or ethanol for gasoline doesn’t change the business model. Every time you press the gas pedal you still burn fuel and give cash to the energy industry.”

But once a rooftop solar installation is installed, the marginal cost of each additional unit of energy drops essentially to zero because the sun and the wind are free. Flipping a light switch burns nothing and means zero cash for the utility.

In the case of Kodak, the next disruption came from the likes of Flickr, which made it easier to publish and share photos online, and so the marginal cost of storage dropped to zero. Companies like Picasa made it easy to store photos online on or a laptop. Again, the cost of each additional picture was nil.

Next came the social media disruption wave. Facebook became the largest photo publisher in the world. It was followed by smartphone cameras, and Instagram.

The benefits of abundance, innovation and participatory culture

Seba says Silicon Valley will play a central role because companies such as Apple, Google, Intel, Cisco, Facebook, Twitter, and eBay are governed by information economics. These technology companies grow fast and strong because of the economics of increasing returns, and is about abundance, innovation and participatory culture.

Resource-based energy companies are based on the economics of decreasing returns. He cites fracking as the classic example. It needs huge infrastructure in water, transport, pipelines, and factories – and where the returns start decreasing as soon as the oil or gas is pumped. Despite all the talk of abundance and a “golden age of energy,” fracked wells may deplete by 60 to 70 percent the first year alone.8

SolarPV, meanwhile, has decreased its costs by a factor of 154, a classic technology cost curve. The electric vehicle is already better, faster, and safer than the internal combustion engine (gasoline) vehicle, and innovative financing models will reduce upfront costs. The autonomous (self-driving) vehicle will soon be better, faster, cheaper, and safer than vehicles driven by human drivers. The disruptive wave brought about by self-driving cars will wipe the last vestiges of the gasoline car and oil industries.

This will lead to a convergence in which batteries can be used for transportation and for grid storage. Electric vehicles can be charged at work and become a source as well as a user of energy for the home. The result will be a swift transition from liquid-energy transportation to electric transportation.

The self-driving car will benefit from improvements in technologies such as artificial intelligence, sensors, graphics processing, robotics, broadband wire-less communications, advanced materials, 3D visualization, Lidar, and 3D printing. In turn, These technologies will also benefit solar, wind, and electric vehicles.

“The information technology revolution pushed processing power and intelligence from the center to the edges. We went from the mainframe, to the mini-computer, to the personal computer, to the cell phone and tablet in less than three decades. The nodes are getting smaller, more connected and more intelligent. We’re far from done with this transition. The trillion-sensor world is right around the corner.

“The information technology revolution was not brought about only by the miniaturisation of technologies. This was a transition from a supplier-centric, centralised information model to a user-centric, participatory information model.

Seba says energy and transportation disruption is quickly moving towards a participatory energy model, that will also use a distributed architecture of energy production and usage made possible by software, sensors, artificial intelligence, robotics, smartphones, mobile Internet, big data, analytics, satellites, nanotechnology, electricity storage, materials science, and other exponentially improving technologies.

Solar is causing energy production to be pushed to the edges (customer site) from the center (large, centralized, hub-and-spoke power plants). The nodes are getting smaller, more modular, more connected, and more intelligent.

“Welcome to the age of participatory energy, where every end user will be able to contribute to the financing, generation, storage, management, and trading of energy. “

Tesla, a smartphone on wheels

He suggests the Tesla Model S, for instance, is not very different from a smartphone or tablet computer, and as such will benefit from Moore’s Law, or a version thereof, that states that technology improves at an annual rate of about 41 percent.

“If your competitor’s rate of improvement is faster than yours, you’re toast. “

And what of the extractive resources? According to Seba, they will have sizeable niche markets – uranium for weapons, gas for cooking and fertiliser.

“Obsolescence and clean disruption will not put an end to incumbent industries. We still have vinyl records, sailboats and jukeboxes. These niche market products will survive, but energy and transportation will not be the multi-trillion dollar energy heavyweights that they are today. “




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

  1. Peter D 6 years ago

    This would be great, let’s hope it is true! If only our Government had the vision and ambition in its policies, to create the jobs and industries of the future, utilising the abundance of clean energy that nature provides.

    • Peter 6 years ago

      That’s what is most annoying by the Abbott government – the lack of vision and the inability to see the fantastic possibilities that exist if renewable energy was supported and how it can, and will transform the energy system for the better. Instead the government is stuck in the 20th century.

      • Giles 6 years ago

        It’s annoying but perfectly predictable. Like Kodah, incumbent electricity providers will fight against change, though policy, regulation and tariff changes. And they happen to control this government.

        • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

          I am unaware of the political climate in AU. What are the chances of Abbott and Company hanging on to power much longer? Is AU going through its Bush/Cheney years and destined to return from the dark?

    • Joseph Ahner 3 years ago

      Governments the world over are always impediments to change and defenders of established interests. Regardless of who is in charge of the government it will always favor establishment industries and try to damage upstarts.

      • Wallace 3 years ago

        Germany’s solar FiT program is a single example of why your blanket statement is incorrect.

  2. CM 6 years ago

    Hmm, Silicon Valley leading the way – loss of privacy, lack of any inbuilt security, need to patch quickly, increasing ISP bills. And I like driving myself! Self drive would be like sitting in an US car (ie on the right hand side)

    • Motorshack 6 years ago

      And just which neighborhood mechanic is liable to be able to fix any or all of the high-tech systems on the self-driving car? Also, how will he afford all the high-tech test equipment for all those different gadgets?

      And what happens if different vehicles are running different versions of the software, or different manufacturers have implemented supposedly standard protocols in slightly inconsistent ways? And who develops or enforces the building codes, which so far do not exist at all in the software industry?

      I’ll stick to my bicycle, thanks.

      • coomadoug 6 years ago

        Motor shack
        Your fear of a self drive car is understandable.. but are you scared now when you pass a car going in the opposite direction with combined speed of 240 km hr and going within 2 metres of you snd your family. The driver could be crazy drunk and controlled by a human who makes a million times the error count of a computer

        • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

          I dodged someone drifting over in my lane yesterday.

          They were busy looking at their smart phone.

          And I failed to see a deer standing along the side of the road until I was quiet close. We have a problem with deer jumping in front of cars around here. A self-driving car can look everywhere at once and see in the dark.

      • coomadoug 6 years ago

        The car will require 10% of the maintenance a petrol vehicle requires. Zero friction regen brakes, stress optimised inertia managed navigation, tires manufactured from coal and hydro carbon nano technology that last the life of the vehicle. Light weight structure 5% the weight of todays car and 12 times stronger then steel.

        • Motorshack 6 years ago

          Sorry. I didn’t say I would be afraid to ride in or near one, any more than I am afraid to ride in an airliner on autopilot doing a zero-zero instrument landing. I am a software designer who, among other things, has helped build both robotic factory systems and an electronic navigation receiver. So, I know it can be done. That was not my point.

          My main point, as someone who does have professional experience with such things, was that a repair network will not be at all easy to set up. A lot of mechanics already loathe computerized engine controls, and those are relatively simple compared to the software that will be in a self-driving car.

          In general, software has a huge class of error types that are physically impossible in mechanical systems, on top of being invisible, and occurring in a device that executes a billion operating cycles a second. So, don’t be surprised when it takes a whole team of IT guys to do a proper tune up, with costs in proportion.

          These sorts of maintenance costs may make sense in a 90 million dollar airliner, but they will not be reasonable for a hundred million private passenger cars. As it is, most people can hardly afford regular maintenance on conventional cars.

          So, when someone is forced to skimp on maintenance, and some little sensor craps out, it may or may not cause an accident, but it is quite likely to leave the fancy, gold-plated car totally deadlined at the side of the road.

          That is also how you might wind up with critical software inconsistencies among vehicles. How many people apply all the recommended patches to the OS of their personal computer? The problem there is not technical, it is social – specifically good, old-fashioned human laziness.

          And, of course, the NSA will not only know exactly where you are and where you have been (which your phone is already telling them in real-time), but also exactly where you intend to go, and when you will get there. Plus, if they decide they don’t like you, they will push a button, lock all your doors, and have the car drop you off at the nearest airport for secret rendition to some black site prison overseas. Living in Australia probably will not be any help, either. That will just mean they do not have to break any American laws to snatch you.

          Finally, a good many of the technical advantages you list are also attributes that I can, or might someday, easily claim for my bicycle: ultra-durable tires, electronic navigation, very low maintenance costs, etc. Plus, I won’t get fat and lazy riding the thing, just the opposite.

          In short, self-driving cars may be technically feasible, but it’s probably just not worth the bother, given the very few real advantages and the extremely high costs.

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            “So, don’t be surprised when it takes a whole team of IT guys to do a proper tune up, with costs in proportion.”

            And that team working an EV in Delhi can be based in Silicon Valley. Once they figure out the software problem then they will code it away.

            Tesla is already doing remote updates on its EVs.

          • Motorshack 6 years ago

            “Once they figure out the software problem then they will code it away.”

            First off, that is a truly heroic assumption you are making.

            I have done exactly that sort of remote support many times, and it is often maddeningly difficult, if it is even possible at all. Plus, the customer may not even speak your language. My French is pretty good, because I once spent a year giving telephone support to a customer in Brussels.

            You then have to reproduce the problem, which is often impossible, and then you actually have to figure out which line of code out of millions is the real culprit.

            And then you have to test the solution rigorously to make sure there are no nasty side-effects, which are very common in all software changes.

            And if they do solve the problem, then they still have to update every other car on the road, to keep them all sufficiently consistent with one another.

            It took GM a decade just to admit they had a defective ignition lock that was killing customers, and they have barely begun on the process of changing them all, even though Congress is regularly grilling the CEO on the point.

            And that was just one fault that was actually killing customers. How worried will they be about a problem that merely makes you late for work on a regular basis?

            I’m not only a software designer, but I was also born and raised in Detroit, so I know exactly how those folks think. A lot of our neighbors were very senior auto executives, and they bitched endlessly about every new safety idea ever proposed. It was always too expensive, and “no one will be able to afford the cars”. So, what are they going to do with a product that might really have prohibitively high maintenance costs?

            Short answer: they are going to charge you enough to make a profit anyway.

            Mind you, I’m not saying you can’t spend your money on a self-driving car when and if they become available. I just think they are a very expensive, complicated, and fragile solution to a problem that does not even exist.

            And all I am trying to do here is to give the enthusiasts a little heads up on the possible costs and problems. This is, after all, my field of professional expertise, and my comments are driven by ethical considerations as much as anything else. I have no financial stake in any of this, either way.

            Again, my main question: what does a self-driving car do that cannot be done more cheaply and easily with existing technology – often something as simple as a bicycle?

            I’m not seeing an answer to that question yet, and until I do I fail to see why anyone should get at all excited about the idea.

          • nakedChimp 6 years ago

            “One last thought: when one of these things does eventually kill someone, which will happen, then the public reaction may be right out of a 1930s horror movie – pitchforks and torches as far as the eye can see.”
            Can’t remember when the last time was that a human who killed other humans had been hunted down by a group of people with pitchforks and torches..
            Mistakes will be made and people will die and insurances will cover that as they do today, what’s the difference if a machine kills someone vs a human did it?
            And with the machine they will have a log(*) what happened and can find the fault.. with a human.. not so much.

            *) unless the NSA etc. was driving 😉

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            Point you are missing is that for the first time in history it will be able to connect every single repair shop’s intelligence together in real time.

            A rare problem can crop in a shop, something they’ve never seen before. The data from that car can be put online and any other occurrences will be looked at for a possible solution. No more waiting months/years for information to make it from shop to shop. Not even a need for a service bulletin to be mailed out (and then found when needed).

            It the solution isn’t on line then a crackerjack team of experts can address the issue, wherever it is in the world. All they need is a tech at the car’s location who can follow directions.

            And once the problem is solved the solution becomes system knowledge. If it takes a software tweak then that can be done almost instantly for every single car.

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            “Again, my main question: what does a self-driving car do that cannot be done more cheaply and easily with existing technology – often something as simple as a bicycle?”

            First, greatly reduce car accidents with the resulting human deaths and injuries.

            Second, reduce congestion in our cities by allowing cars to drop people off at their destination and then parking themselves away from crowded centers.

            With non-owned, pay by the mile, self-driving EVs the number of cars would be reduced. A car would show up at your door and drop you off wherever and then go on to serve someone else. Cars now spend ~90% of their time parked.

            Third, provide personal transportation to those who have difficulty driving. In particular, older people.

            Fourth, eliminate our wasted “driving” time by allowing us to use that time productively or enjoyably. Get some work done (shorten time at work and increase time away), read/watch TV, nap.

          • Motorshack 6 years ago

            In short, pretty much everything that conventional public transit has been doing fairly successfully for over a century.

            Sorry. I still do not see the need, and especially in such an expensive, over-engineered form.

            This is just Google showing off their technical abilities, just to prove they are smart enough to do it. It’s also a pretty good recruiting tool, since it gives the impression that working at Google might involve interesting technical puzzles (whether or not they have any real economic value). In a word, it’s nerd-bait.

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            Google and many other car companies.

            Ford and Porsche already self park. Other companies are installing crash avoidance systems. Adaptive cruise control is happening. One car company (forget which) is doing slow speed lane control.

            Self-driving will fade in slowly. We’ll get it component by component with the bugs worked out along the way.

            Once installed in most cars the cost will be much lower and insurance savings will probably pay for it.

          • coomadoug 6 years ago

            Motor Shack
            It will be much cheaper to take the self drive car routinely in the city. The cars will be linked to the satelite technology used to control traffic conjestion. Your journey will have a toll on every road.The price on eace road varies moment to moment and this used to control the density of traffic on various areas. Some routes on some occasions will pay you to take various options in order to manage the conjestion. If you dont have it and are driving yourself you will not know what the spot narket is costing you. You may know but the decisions will be very difficult

          • Motorshack 6 years ago

            Guys, I’m sorry, but I have to laugh at all this. I don’t intend to be mean, but reading your arguments is like watching puppies chase their tails.

            Banks and big corporations want you to get completely engrossed in the technicalities of these things, so that you simply don’t notice when you hand over your life savings to them. That’s all that is happening here.

            I don’t own a car of any kind, and have not done so for years.

            Once you wrap your head around the full logic of that, it is a perfectly wonderful way to live, and especially from a financial point of view.

            When all is said and done, the average car owner needs something on the order of $10K in gross income every year, just to support the car. In contrast, I spend about $20 a year on bike tires, and the occasional small part. Plus, the actual repair work is so simple that any normal twelve year-old can do it.

            If I really have to go out of town, then I take public transit, or rent a car for the day, or hitch a ride with a friend in return for some favor I do them. Mostly, however, I just stay in town.

            The larger economic context is just more of the same. The whole capitalist system is just a big machine to funnel all the wealth of society into an ever smaller number of hands.

            Essentially everyone now admits that that is what is going on, but only a few of us actually opt out of the system, and just stop buying all the crap on offer.

            Anyone can do the same, but, as I say, most are so caught up in the technicalities that they never see their real options.

            So, have fun fantasizing about all the new and improved ways to waste your hard-earned money.

            As for me, I will keep my money in my pocket, where it properly belongs.

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            Well, good for you. But you do need to realize that most people have no desire to live your lifestyle.

            I have no hesitation to pay for my 2x per month 150 mile trips to the grocery store because it means that I get to live in a place I truly love instead of somewhere I would hate.

          • Motorshack 6 years ago

            First, I didn’t say that everyone needed to live exactly the way that I do. You said that.

            Second, if you are happy with your particular set of trade-offs then good for you. I would not quarrel with that – as far as that goes.

            Third, none of that changes the fact that the vast majority of people in the English-speaking world work their butts off (if they can find a job at all), give most of their money to banks and big corporations, and get fuck-all for it.

            The much deeper problem – and the reason I mention it at all on this particular website – is that this idiocy is also on the verge of destroying the entire ecosystem.

            What good will your beloved landscape be when it is destroyed by permanent drought, or gigantic forest fires, or an unstoppable epidemic of pine bark beetles?

            Being able to get there in a self-driving car, or in any car, for that matter, will not make up for the irretrievable loss.

            You can sneer at my lifestyle, or my attitude, or both, but the environmental damage that I do is minimal in every way, and, so far, precious few are making that kind of effort.

            When the puppies do manage to catch their own tails, it will be just in time to kiss their asses good-bye.

            And, yes, now I’m feeling mean. No doubt about it.

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            “What good will your beloved landscape be when it is destroyed by permanent drought, or gigantic forest fires, or an unstoppable epidemic of pine bark beetles?”

            How exactly will EVs powered by renewable energy contribute to climate change?

          • Motorshack 6 years ago

            The problem is the continued exponential growth of the whole industrial economy, and cheap energy, which renewables promise to be, will exacerbate that growth just as much as fossil fuels have. They just will not produce so much CO2 as a side-effect.

            Climate change is a big problem, but it is only a part of a much larger set of destructive forces that are wrecking the global ecosystem at a horrendous rate.

            For example, forests all over the world, which are crucial to the global ecosystem, are being destroyed at a fantastic rate to provide cheap lumber to First World construction and furniture-making operations. That is not climate change, it is exponential economic growth, and would continue even if climate change were not happening at all.

            Also, in the last few decades, forty percent of ALL agricultural land on the planet has turned to desert. In part that is climate change, but it is also bad land management, bad water management, over-grazing, indiscriminate use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers, etc. Again, it is exponential economic growth, pretending to feed a growing population, but instead permanently destroying the land on which we all depend.

            In about the same time frame a great many of the world’s fisheries have been pushed to the point of collapse, and again that is rampant, exponential industrialization of fishing operations, which claim to be feeding people, but are in fact destroying the whole system of fisheries.

            Again, in about the same time frame, about forty percent of the marine phytoplankton have disappeared, which is indeed largely an effect of climate change – specifically ocean acidification. This is the base of the entire marine food chain and the source of about half the oxygen we breathe.

            Between the loss of the phytoplankton and the desertification on land, we have lost about one third of the world’s entire photosynthetic capacity. In less than forty years, either directly or indirectly from exponential growth of the industrial economy.

            That is tantamount to saying we are about one third done sterilizing the whole damned planet.

            And all the politicians, and big business, and most economists, are all saying the solution to our problems is more of the same!

            We won’t really have to worry about climate change, because we are going to starve ourselves first. The process has already started in quite a few countries, and the problem is spreading rapidly.

            Finally, I have only listed a few of the more dramatic ecological problems. There are lots more, and collectively they are the worst threat our species has ever faced, but almost no one is even aware of the magnitude of the overall threat, much less the details.

            Dead men walking.

            Just dead men walking, and not a clue.

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            I think you have a very high opinion of your “special knowledge”.

            Many of us are very aware of the problems and are looking for solutions. And implementing solutions.

          • Motorshack 6 years ago

            And how many is many? Apparently not enough.

            Greenhouse gas production is still rising.

            The fish and phytoplankton are still disappearing from the sea.

            The forests and farmland are still being destroyed.

            The pollinators upon which we depend for food are still going extinct.

            All at ever-increasing rates.

            As I said before, you can sneer at me, but those problems are still growing, and that is simple, documented fact, easily available to anyone who cares to look. So, calling me egotistical will not solve the problem.

            Only solving the problem will solve the problem.

            So, don’t be shy. Tell us what you are doing to solve the problem.

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            I’m doing my share and I’m working to educate others.

            There are many, many, many of us who are. Many who have been aware of the problems for a very long time and have been working to solve the problems for a long time.

            We haven’t fixed everything yet, there’s a lot of work left to do, but we’re making progress.

            In general, I would say that things will get worse before they get better but it takes a long time to turn a great ship.

          • Motorshack 6 years ago

            That’s just hand-waving, and not very convincing. Indeed, you sound like you are dodging the question.

            I ride a bike, and don’t own a car at all. The heated portion of my living quarters is only 100 square feet, and is heavily insulated. I don’t eat meat, which is as good as taking another car off the road. I often heat my shower water with solar energy, and use cold water for everything else. When I do use the water heater, it is only on long enough to heat for one shower at a time. Ninety-nine percent of the time it is off.

            In short, I am acting aggressively in nearly every part of my life, because I take the problem very seriously.

            So, I say again. What exactly are you doing?

            It’s a simple question.

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            Want to measure who can piss highest up a rope? I don’t see any sense to your game, but I’ll play.

            I’ve been an organic gardener for over 40 years. And an on-again, off-again vegetarian for even longer. Off- periods I eat less than two pounds of meat a month. I try to eat what is in season, which means the local season. That reduces transportation and storage loads.

            I don’t use any fuel in gardening. I do use about a half gallon per year mowing my orchard.

            I do all the usual “reduce, reuse, recycle” stuff. Compost. Again for four decades or so.

            I try to purchase quality products which will last for longer times, thus reducing my manufacturing CO2 load.

            I minimize my driving. Keep it down to about half the national average. I do allow myself one long plane trip a year.

            I’ve been off the grid for over 25 years with solar. I built a very energy efficient house and heat with wood. I cut my wood from storm falls in my forest.

            I do use propane for water heating because I’ve yet to get around to installing a solar water heater. About a gallon per week for two people.
            I’ve been using a gas generator for solar backup because I don’t have a good wind site. I’m probably adding a large number of solar panels in order to get mostly free of fuel use. With the reduced price of panels I think they will pay for themselves in 25 years or so. That’s not a good return on investment, but the overall investment is pretty modest and will save me a lot of generator hassle in bad weather.

            I haven’t been able to reduce my carbon footprint to zero. I’m not willing to lead that “pure” a life. So what I do is to compute my solar footprint each year and purchase 2x the carbon offsets to cover my sins.

            I’ve been using cloth grocery bags for 20 years or more.

            I bought ‘country antique’ furniture in the 1970s and am still using same. That’s some serious reuse compared to people who go the IKEA buy it, toss it, re-buy it route.

            I use tiny amounts of toothpaste.

            Now, I have no idea what has been gained by this silly exercise. But it’s what you wanted….

          • Motorshack 6 years ago

            Good. We are indeed in close agreement on many points then.

            And my point was not a pissing contest.

            Rather, I get told a lot that I must be crazy to live the way that I do, and I actually would like to run into more people who are willing to take an honest look at obvious facts, and then actually do something in response.

            In particular, I am sick of hearing people complain about all the evil politicians and business tycoons, yet they will not do even the simplest things that are clearly within their own power, much less get aggressive about it. They say that are “concerned”, but they just cannot be bothered with any real changes. It’s all the fault of the “evil” people.

            Even worse are the folks who put up some solar panels, and then figure that they have done their share. Clean energy is all it will take. Right? So, we can go on living in a giant air conditioned house full of endless consumer junk, and also flying all over the world for vacations.

            It’s tempting to call such behavior hypocrisy, but I tend to think it is simple stupidity.

            If you are an organic gardener, then you probably do very well understand why I think agribusiness is killing the planet for short-term gain. And you probably also know something about desertification. And the growing disappearance of wild pollinators.

            These trends are dangerous, they are accelerating, and if not checked they could kill billions in the relatively near future. Yet, the people causing the problem are almost perfectly oblivious.

            It’s horrifying, but also a fascinating bit of psychology.

            Anyway, mostly I am largely resigned to the futility of trying to get people to change their behavior, but once in a while, such as today, I get cranky.

            That’s all.

          • nakedChimp 6 years ago

            “My main point, as someone who does have professional experience with such things, was that a repair network will not be at all easy to set up. A lot of mechanics already loathe computerized engine controls, and those are relatively simple compared to the software that will be in a self-driving car.

            In general, software has a huge class of error types that are physically impossible in mechanical systems, on top of being invisible, and occurring in a device that executes a billion operating cycles a second. So, don’t be surprised when it takes a wholeteam of IT guys to do a proper tune up, with costs in proportion.”

            So there will be more ‘software engineers'(*) in the garage then instead of mechanics?

            *) probably not full-blood software developers, but more like guys that have learned how to hunt bugs in a software system and can work with some more specialized dudes back in the HQ..

            Also, in my experience the software I write (and I am by no means from the field, really not, far from it) over time becomes more stable and is way more redundant/resilient against errors where at first it just crapped it self. So your assumption that they won’t throw enough people at the problem and enough computing power (to run all those code tests) especially after they don’t have to tune the fossil fuel parts of the system any more… why wouldn’t they, technology just becomes cheaper?

            Another thing.. decades ago only the military could afford CAD.. or decades before that the first computers had been used for artillery calculations. This trickles down.. you get free software these days that can do those jobs that 30k+ software couldn’t do 15 years before.
            NASA is outsourcing it’s supply and transport to private companies who have to adhere to similar safety rules as they had to, why shouldn’t this trickle down to the end consumer some day?

          • Motorshack 6 years ago

            My only concerns in what I have written come down to three main points.

            A) I have yet to see a convincing need for self-driving cars, so I would not spend the money to build one or to buy one.

            B) I suspect strongly that they will be a major pain in the ass to maintain.

            C) Many people will fear them, both for rational reasons and for irrational ones, and that might well result in lawsuits, legislation, and lots of other serious push-back, all of which will likely add to the already high expenses.

            However, I have no personal stake in this, and my only reason for taking such a detailed look at such points is to give others something to think about, based on my long experience with software systems.

            Otherwise people are entirely free to think what they please, and to spend their money as they see fit. In the end it is not my problem.

            So, having made my basic points, I have nothing more to add.

      • patb2009 6 years ago

        FWIW, we built a pretty good network for fixing computers,
        the Dealer network, the retail supply chains, it all got better.

      • Joseph Ahner 3 years ago

        Most neighborhood mechanics are relatively well off individuals and have had little trouble adapting to technological advancement in the auto industry in the past. Also building codes are often 30 or more years behind the technology curve in all industries they are introduced. Automobiles, firearms, electrical devices and many other products often far exceed regulatory agencies safety standards because safety is something consumers want and are willing to pay more for.

  3. Pedro 6 years ago

    Not to mention that there are web based monitored PV systems that will soon monitor load/consumption. It will not be long before the data is analysed for micro scale consumption patterns and HEM (home energy management) programs are written to maximize self consumption. And by extension be able to minimize the size of the energy storage system.

  4. Nick Pyner 6 years ago

    Sounds great but I assume Seba wrote this before the last federal election, and hasn’t heard much news out of Canberra lately.

    • johnnewton 6 years ago

      The dickheads in charge can’t stand in the way. They’ll be washed out by a tsunami of change. Think Cnut. And I mean King, not Abbott

      • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

        You’re using the urban myth version of King Cnut. He was demonstrating that the tides couldn’t be stopped.

        Abbott and his group seem to think they have that power.

  5. coomadoug 6 years ago

    Thanks Giles
    This is the stuff we need to see out there to be thought about. it may not be correct and it may have this and that wrong but it will wake a lot of the old dudes up. Newman and Warbo? perhaps

  6. Chris Fraser 6 years ago

    Profound words from Seba. For some reason the survivors of the existing business model are holding on grimly for dear life. They centre this model on the natural monopoly of the grid, only they think it is theirs to control and play with, not ours, even though it is maintained by our tariffs. How much would they love to get their hands on the grid in NSW and Queensland, and make up the ‘rules’ from scratch ?

  7. atwork 6 years ago

    The scale and rate of change is unimaginable. The Kodak analogy is awesome. The link to silicon valley leads my imagination. It makes my day knowing that you compile these intelligent and helpful stories day in and day out. All power to your words! May your audience be wide and influence persuasive.

    • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

      And, remember, digital photography largely replaced film in a single decade.

      The first affordable 2 meg digital cameras came on market around 2000.

      “Affordable” in the same sense that the limited range, rather expensive EVs of today are affordable. Those cameras wouldn’t go as far (make as large prints as film) and one had to drive them a lot (be someone who shot the dozens of rolls a year) in order to justify the price.

      By 2010 film was shoved into a small niche and Kodak about to declare bankruptcy.

      Gasmobiles will hang on, in used versions, longer because of the sunk capital people will want to recover. Big oil will fade away slower than did film.

      • quinks 6 years ago


        Fortunately the coalition knows what is best, which is they a former head of Kodak (Australasia) in charge of the NBN and “the world’s biggest luddite”, Alston, in charge of their party.

  8. Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

    I’m starting to think that V2G was badly conceived. The original version in which grids “rented” EV batteries for storage made no sense to me because utilities are going to be able to purchase much cheaper storage than EV batteries purchased retail. And EV owners would have to not only recover ‘wear and tear’ on their batteries, but make some sort of profit.

    Here’s where EVs may serve as storage and further disrupt fossil fuel’s future. As more PV is added to the grids midday power becomes cheap. As cheap as late night power if Germany is a guide (see graph below – the wholesale price of electricity pre- and post-solar).

    EV drivers are likely to plug in during the day and charge up with cheap solar (the panels may be on their own rooftops). Then when they drive home they will plug in and use some of that cheap midday solar instead of more expensive grid power during the late afternoon/early evening peak (the duck’s head).

    Later at night they will recharge with cheap wind power, use some to make their morning coffee/avoid early morning high electricity prices, and drive to where they plug in during the day.

    It’s the EV owners who will use their EVs for advantageous storage, not utilities.

    • Miles Harding 6 years ago

      One thing that used to concern me was incremental degradation of the EV’s battery each time some energy is drawn or replaced. Recent experience is showing that temperature, the calendar (time) and high voltage from fully charging are much larger issues than shallow cycling is, so the incremental cost of energy buffering is likely a lot lower than a straight LCOE estimate would indicate.

      This should give a green light to using EV batteries to augment home storage. The only issue may be that the EV is likely not going to be a big, heavy 85kwh Tesla and will be more like 20 or 25 kwh. Still, being able to pull 10kwh out during the night peak would make a big difference to evening energy requirements.

      This sort of buffering scenario means that the EV will have to be plugged in at home during the day to recharge from solar. Perhaps this can be done at work from a large PV array on the building?

      • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

        I’m starting to think that people will ‘plug in’ both at work/school and home. Plugging in will likely mean parking. Parking spaces will have wireless chargers installed.

        EVs will need to be charged, on average, only ~3 hours a day and cars spend ~90% of their time parked. That means that if they are available for charging about 21.5 hours a day and only need to be charged for ~15% of that time. That’s an immense dispatchable load for the utilities to use.

        Solar peak? Wind blowing hard? Charge up the EVs.

        Demand peaking and supply tight? Stop charging the EVs.

        As long as drivers have their self-determined minimum charge when they climb in most will be glad to allow the grid to determine when charging happens. The few others who want always to be fully charged can pay a premium.

  9. Alen 6 years ago

    Will have to get my hands on a copy. This reminds me though, whatever happened to the book the IPA was planning on writing about ‘the hoax of GW’ (I remember remember reading something about the advertising for taxable donations) -is it possible they finally came to their senses?

    • riley222 6 years ago

      Not sure if some readers of Renew Economy quite realise the agenda of the IPA and the Libs. They have a covert media team working day and night to disparage anything to do with a move to renewable energy, among other agendas they have ,such as concentrating power in the hands of the business elite , and attacking media not compliant with their agenda. It’s a serious and organised push , they’re not about to ‘come to their senses’ . The stacking of the review board is an obvious indication of where they’ll go if they can.

  10. Steve Case 6 years ago

    Air lines?

  11. pawan bist 6 years ago

    Yeah, it’s the right thing to do and follows by every petrol cars company to get the good out come.

Comments are closed.

Get up to 3 quotes from pre-vetted solar (and battery) installers.