More Leverage = More Clean Energy

Lessons from cell phones and cars on accelerating energy transitions.
DALL-E envisions giving Atlas from Greek mythology a little leverage.

Historically, energy transitions are sluggish affairs. The fastest worldwide switch in primary energy took 35 years, when coal overtook wood, to rise from 5% to 25% of global supply. But that was back in the 1800s. Since then, oil made the same transition in 40 years, while natural gas took 60 years. Today, weather-dependent renewables barely scratch 5% of total primary energy after more than 30 years of development.

Clearly, we need to think outside the box. In less than 30 years, we must complete another transition – this time away from fossil fuels – at a scale unprecedented in the history of energy. What can we learn from other global industries that have undergone rapid transitions? Let’s look in our pockets and driveways for clues.

Landline phones provided the backbone for early cellular networks and the Internet. Cell phones connected calls on the same architecture as landlines, and by tapping into landline networks already running into millions of homes, dial-up provided a launchpad for the Internet to take off. At the same time, applying similar regulations from radio and television to cellular enabled the widespread utility of mobile phones. The United Nations now estimates that 95% of the world’s population is within reach of a mobile broadband network, an incredible feat compared to where the industry was just 30 years ago.

The revolutionary Ford Model T was launched in 1908 when horses and buggies still ruled the roads. By capitalizing on Detroit’s established supply chains and skilled workforce in tandem with assembly line innovation, Ford mass-produced the Model T, growing the automobile industry at a relentless scale. Within 30 years most American families owned a car, instigating a worldwide shift in ground transportation.

We need to think outside the box.

Cell phones leveraged infrastructure and regulation, while cars leveraged supply chains and skills. In both cases, global penetration swiftly changed the world in just a few decades.

In clean energy, geothermal is best positioned to leverage the global infrastructure, regulation, supply chains, and skills of the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuels still supply more than 75% of all primary energy worldwide. Terawatt-scale exploration, drilling, and production workflows are readily transferable to geothermal and, if we tackle a few technological barriers, transformative on a global scale. If we want to transition to clean energy in our lifetimes, we must leverage what we have to more expediently get what we need.

Energy is everything. At Quaise, we look at the big picture to see where the world is and where it needs to go. Today, fossil fuels still dominate global energy by a long shot. A smoother transition to clean energy requires a bold new vision grounded in science, scale, and speed. Join us as we explore the future of energy and the power of deep geothermal.