Four Reasons To Come To Energy Innovation Conference (and Two Reasons Not To)

Tim’s been watching power for a while, as you may have noticed from his Radar posts and talks. We’re doing our first Energy Innovation Conference in August (22-24, San Francisco) and you’re invited. I’ve been helping Allison Randal from O’Reilly, Alec Proudfoot and Chris Uhlik from Google put together the program. You’re probably asking yourself “why energy?” (at least, you are now) so I thought I’d better say what value we hope to offer at the conference.

Reasons to attend

1) You Love Science. From solar concentrators and electric cars to oil-growing algae and printing photovoltaics into buildings, we’ve got all sorts of nifty science and engineering. We’re geeks at heart–we want our presenters to cough up the hard numbers on everything from $/MWh for battery technology to the economic analysis of proposed emissions trading.

2) You Love Money. Harnessed energy is what supports the Earth’s population and lifestyle. There’s huge demand and it’s only going up. There’s money to be made in meeting this demand, whether through nuclear, coal, solar, intelligent utility networks, wind or other systems. Even outside the grid, advances in generation and consumption technology such as individual power monitoring and lightweight solar cells make new consumer and enterprise devices possible.

3) You Love The Web. Popular and feature-rich web sites end up using a lot of servers. Data centers have an insatiable appetite for two things: hardware and power and the Internet now consumes 4 1.2% (updated) of the US’s electricity production. A lot of that goes to cooling and air conditioning. Advances in data center energy efficiency free money to go to better software, more hardware, and sports cars for you (well, for Jeff, Jerry, Bill, and Sergey).

4) You Want To Be The Change You Would See. You’re interested in ways you can change your house, your car, your lifestyle to save money and/or the environment. You want to know about architecture hacks, roof-mounted solar panels, and how long it’ll be before you can get 80 mpg from your pimped hybrid ride with the top down.


We’ve finished about 70% of the program (up on the web site) and over the coming weeks I’ll be blogging as I finish the rest of it. Keynoters include Vinod Khosla, Dan Kammen, and a cast of people whose names you may not know now but will definitely know after the conference. We’ll even have an Energy Fair with posters and prototypes from makers and researchers.

Oh yes …

Reasons Not To Attend

1) You Want A Silver Bullet. You watched Al Gore’s movie and your autonomic nervous system IMed “omigod! t3h w0rld is fuxx0red! wtf 2 do?!” to your brain. You’re hoping a pocket-protected superhero will take the stage in comically thick black framed glasses and unveil the Environmental Silver Bullet: a renewable energy source of lower cost than dirty Chinese coal.

Sorry, Virginia, there’s not only no Santa Claus but renewables are a long way from being truly cost-competitive with polluting forms of energy production. Such a Silver Bullet may eventually be invented by the people at our conference and we’re asking presenters to give the numbers and specifics that’ll help you pick the one you think will get there first. But until oil and coal become the expensive way to generate power, we need to look to technology that minimizes their pollution, we can use renewables to solve the energy generation needs of specific industries, and we need to find ways in which we can minimize demand. All of which, I might add, we’re covering at Energy Innovation.

2) You Wish To Suckle At Mammon’s Teat. You watched Al Gore’s movie and you heard him say it’s possible to make a profit and be green and you said, “Yes! I want to make a profit! This can be just like the web!” You gunned your H2 down Sand Hill Road and began mentally spending the $200M you’d IPO and its sockpuppet mascot for.

I’ve got bad news for you: money’s hard to make in the energy biz (unless you’re a national oil company). If it were easy, we’d all be rich. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to the business plan for my carbon-sequestering clean-kitten-burning thorium-powered sports-car startup …