Energy Club goes to ARPA-E

By Jeremy Kuhre, MBA ’16

I spent three days in the future Feb. 9 through 11, and I’ve returned to tell you: It’s a brave new world. I’ve seen 3D-printed cars; synthetic chemical processes that, when genetically spliced into plants, make them grow faster; radiative panels that passively cool buildings in direct sunlight; a backpack that, when worn through a building, produces a full-3D model instantly; and, perhaps most notably, a chemical coating that allows ALL of the ketchup to slide out of the bottle. A brave new world indeed.

During the first day, Bill Gates set the tone for the rest of the conference: “We want energy to be carbon-free.” There was a tangible sense of excitement at the conference for the maturation of disruptive technologies such as energy storage and next generation renewables that will be critical in addressing the climate crisis. Ahmad Chatila, CEO of SunEdison, the largest renewables developer in the world, pronounced that “energy storage is the most important thing right now—it will change the world as we know it.” He went on to predict that it will unlock widespread adoption of electric vehicles and intermittent sources of electricity generation such as wind and solar. Indeed, Lyndon Rive, CEO of SolarCity, reminded attendees that, of all new electricity generation added to the grid in 2014, solar was the largest, beating out both coal as well as gas. Balancing the idea that technology alone will solve our problems, Alex Laskey, president and founder of Opower, spoke of the importance of feedback loops and behavioral economics in addressing our energy profligacy.

Despite the intractable problems before us, it was difficult to leave the summit without a sense of awe and hope for our future. Johnson has enabled me to do more than simply witness the clean tech revolution; I feel like a key player in driving its destiny. Welcome to the future.

Posted on March 12, 2015 .