Image source: Håkan Dahlström
One of the resources in greatest demand as our footprint expands is energy. World energy consumption grew by five percent in 2010, and by one recent estimate will increase by a further 35% over 2005 levels in the next two decades. New technologies and business models are the True Blue answer – here are some hot developments to watch, from an MSNBC interview with two sector gurus, Dan Kammen, director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley; and Ron Pernick, co-founder and managing director of Clean Edge, a research firm with offices in Oregon and California.
• Solar shining through. Solar is set to start grabbing significant market share away from energy sources such as coal and oil — and catch up to the deployment of wind power, which itself is forecast to become as big as nuclear.
• A meet-up of energy and information technologies. In the future refrigerators will know when we're low on items such as cheese and beer and send a message to our GPS-equipped cell phones to remind us to pick up a wedge and a six-pack the next time we walk into our favorite grocery store — and thus prevent an extra 20-mile jaunt in our 2,000-pound car for a few items.
• China starting to win the clean energy game. Global competition for dominance in the green energy industry is fierce. Areas where China has leading edge include solar photovoltaic manufacturing and deployment of wind turbines.
• Call for clean-energy funds getting louder. Titans of US industry, including Microsoft chairman Bill Gates and Bank of America chairman Chad Holiday, issued a call this June for an annual $16 billion investment in clean-energy innovation.
• Energy development in the developing world. In Central America, plans are underway for a power grid that connects everyone from Panama to Mexico. While the grid will be powered by all kinds of energy, solar and wind will be part of the mix.
• Transportation starting to go electric. The buzz over electrified transport is going to get stronger, with a build-out of high-speed rail networks and a resurgence of streetcars joining the mix.