Bill Gates and Mainstream Consumers want an “energy miracle”

Bill Gates and Mainstream Consumers want an “energy miracle”

You may have heard of the TED Conference – an annual gathering that attracts some of the world’s greatest thinkers, innovators and business giants. And of course you know Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, leader of a huge global foundation and investor in new technologies.

He spoke at last week’s TED Conference and called for an “energy miracle” – the development of zero emission nuclear power that burns waste, produces cheap energy and is scalable. Renewables, Gates pointed out, offer several advantages, but the challenge is battery storage. According to his calculations, all the batteries on the planet today could only hold 10 minutes of the energy the world needs.

So he’s turning his attention, considerable influence and investment power to promote nuclear as the leading solution to the energy challenges the world faces. Gates owns part of a company called TerraPower that claims to have designed a method of generating nuclear energy that burns nuclear waste, generates less waste and produces no carbon emissions.

Oh, and Gates thinks this model can cut the cost of power in half.

Americans are likely to welcome this “energy miracle” with open arms and huge sighs of relief. In last year’s Energy Pulse we asked respondents “Why don’t you do more to conserve energy?” and the number four answer was “New technologies will soon be invented to solve energy supply issues.” Americans want a technology fix so they won’t have to change behavior. In fact, the number three reason why Americans don’t do more to conserve energy is that it’s hard to change habits.

In their heads, the equation looks like this: New products and innovations = we get to keep prioritizing our comfort and convenience instead of the environment and keep doing what we’re doing now.

Hooray, they’ll proclaim! The Research and Development guys in the lab will save us all! Hooray! When those guys figure it out, we can still keep our thermostats at 72 year-round! Hooray! Cheap, safe, reliable power and, oh, by the way, it’s better for the environment, too.

So, two things to take away:

  • American consumers are squarely putting the responsibility for a more sustainable future in corporate America’s hands. They’re saying, “Hey, if you come out with a green or energy-efficient product that works just as well as what I’m used to, and it doesn’t cost me any more money, then I’ll probably use it.” So if you’re working on new energy technologies or products/services that fit into this way of thinking, you’ve got a winner on your hands.
  • The second piece is that should you (or Mr. Gates) succeed in launching such a new technology, consumers will expect a lot.  They’ll expect to maintain status quo/keep doing what they do/not have to get involved while you do an Oz act behind the curtain.  This likely won’t work in actuality, so you’ll need to be transparent, clear and manage expectations at every turn.

In short, miracles do happen — they just take a lot of work and clear communication.

About the Author

Karen Barnes

Karen is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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