Forbes on the Difficulties of Energy Forecasting in the Age of Disruptive Technology

There’s an interesting read in Forbes today on the difficulty of making predictions about the future of energy because of ever-changing technological developments in the energy industry. Former energy trader and now utility executive Chip Register has written an article titled “Technology Is The New Black In The Energy Economy”, and looks at how technologies have come out of the blue (and are still coming) that have completely turned the overall energy picture.

He mentions that billion dollar decisions are made in corporate boardrooms based on broad-based energy studies from organizations and companies — but that these studies are based on assumptions that disregard the disruptive nature of technological developments that suddenly come on the scene and change everything. He holds up fracking as one example: only a decade ago it was not on the radar, and now the United States has become the biggest energy producer in the world, something no one would have predicted just a few years ago.

Register asks: ‘Has the pace of arrival of disruptive technology increased to the point where the standard error on these [studied] is so wide as to render them virtually meaningless? I fear so.”

He does not stop with fracking. Looking into the future he sees that we could see the development of energy storage technologies that could allow renewable energy sources to become much more important and put a dent in the natural gas industry. He mentions that Bill Gates and others have put $35 million into a company called Ambri which is building a liquid metal battery factory. He also talks about a carbon capture and storage plant by NRG in Texas which will capture carbon dioxide from a coal plant and send it underground to help pump oil. Another technology he sees as being significant is the fourth generation of nuclear fission plants — again something Bill Gates is supporting.

I guess it should be of little surprise that he does not mention LENR here as having a possible impact on the future of energy. But I think this just illustrates his point. I suppose that even those of us who see that LENR could have an enormous influence on the future of energy could be missing the mark by discounting the fact that other technologies might come along that have an even greater impact.

Register’ conclusion is one that I think makes an important point:

“Fracking broadsided the analysts as a one-time event. Imagine the difficulty of long-range forecasting when wave after wave of transformation crash over the industry. Now imagine the danger of investing billions based on those forecasts. Beware the standard error. This is not your father’s energy economy”

  • bachcole

    FYI. The percentages of utilities in the USA that fall into various categories, from http://www.publicpower.org/files/PDFs/USElectricUtilityIndustryStatistics.pdf :

    Publicly Owned: 61%
    Investor Owned: 5.8%
    Cooperatives: 26.5%
    Federal Power Agencies: 0.3%
    Power Marketers: 6.4%

    But check out the entire page. The picture is not as neat as my above list shows. There are more than 10 times more publicly owned than investor owned, but there are more than 3 times as many customers of investor owned than of publically owned.

  • GreenWin

    Bronc, you’d think with the 62 years and $250 billion taxpayer dollars sunk into hot fusion they would contribute something to the production of energy, xergy, complexergy — or even a single Watt of useful energy. To date we got ZERO.

  • jousterusa

    It’s awfully strange that this fellow’s discussion omits any mention of the E-Cat and the hydrino reactor, which are bioth likely to have a greater impact on fuels than solar, wind, liquid metal batteries or anything else. How does a smart guy like this miss the mark?

    • GreenWin

      At the direction of ASN? RDA? Forbes is a dutiful business rag that does what it’s told.

    • Bernie777

      He cannot upset his “powers that be” in his oil industry. He can only mention those “new” energy sources that are 50 years away, or that are impossible economically.

      • Omega Z

        Name was Mark Gibbs
        His exit as a contributor to Forbes was due to creative differences. It had nothing to do with LENR. Seriously, No, No, Seriously. Ha ha
        In other Real World News, I woke up with the uncanny ability to levitate. :-)

        • Bernie777

          You must have watched Musk on Colbert last night before you went to bed. (: If you didn’t see it, try to catch it, it was fun.

    • Ophelia Rump

      “How does a smart guy like this miss the mark?”

      I see three possible answers:
      1, They fly by instruments and anything sub billion dollar does not show up on radar.
      2, They, see but they will not speak of their real interests until it is in their best interest to do so.
      3, Denial

      • http://www.lenrnews.eu/lenr-summary-for-policy-makers/ AlainCo

        A non negligible of corps are aware of LENR, but they have problem with really disruptive technology.
        LENr is not so tecyhnologically disruptive, it is plumbing, turbines, TEG.
        however it is disrupting the market of energy and energy consuming devices.

        it can kill the grid, the big power plant, the oil companies style of business (even if companies like shell enter LENR market they will have to behave differently)

        even if they are aware of the crisis, they see it as a risk for their business.
        the adaptation have to be done by an independent structure, a skunkwork division, the “innovation division” you now find in most big corps.

        just see the recent news on continuum energy llc. greg goble found out the CV of the founders… connected to MIT, to many big business…

  • GreenWin

    Energy is a ~$20T annual market that gates human evolution to become a Type One civilization. For the past 200 years that market has been controlled by fossil fuel cartels. For the past 60 years fission has claimed a huge chunk of market. We now have a nascent renewables entry in wind/solar. Solar is paving the way for Distributed Energy Appliances like micro-CHP.

    The newest players all appear to center around “the atom unexplored” – new nuclear processes substantially all LENR-based. For example, despite Mills’ protestations, Dr. McKubre calls his discoveries “Cold Fusion.” Certainly DGT, E-Cat, Brillouin, and Balakiryan’s Solar H2 all claim a foundation in LENR.

    With this large a market, growing by addition of another 2 billion people who have no energy today – there’s abundance for all. No one technology will or should monopolize the transition away from fossil/fission. The large picture vision from SHT re phasing out fossil/fission to H2 (and LENR) via global consortium is valid IMO. Point is, there IS enough for everyone. Provided these new entrants are wise enough to realize they cannot go it alone.

  • Freethinker

    To be honest … I do not care what Forbes think or writes. They are puppets of the worst kind, and has fired the only one journalist they had, with balls to write what he had on his mind.

    • jousterusa

      I had not heard they fired Mark Gibbs! That’s a tragedy for Forbes. Let’s hope he goes over to Bloomberg Businessweek, which is a great little weekly magazine – subscriptions are just $5 for 4 months.

  • bachcole

    At first I thought that that headline was: “Technology Is The New Black Swan In The Energy Economy”. This too would have been an appropriate headline.

    I find myself disagreeing with Frank, I think. These new technologies will only impact how rapidly LENR+ takes over the market.

    • jousterusa

      I thought it meant to say “Black Hole”…! Hydrino and E-Cat technology have the potential to swallow the energy industry “whole”…

  • BroKeeper

    Based on report release, theory confirmation, plant demonstration, and production date rumors, I foresee no problem with current energy investment portfolio plans by end of 1st quarter of 2015 –

    GET OUT!

    • bachcole

      Yes. I have been telling people this, OR GET INTO LENR if possible.

      • Billy Jackson

        I agree that people should diversify their investments with energy at this time. But i think that getting INTO LENR is a bit early at the moment. now is the time to educate yourself to be prepared when LENR takes off.. but for investments i would still wait a bit. (if you have the spare change and want the risk then by all means go for it.. but i am a bit on the conservative side.)

        • Ophelia Rump

          I just want to be an early small scale adopter and run a tiny plant for profit.
          Maybe have a chance to turn the investment into a few hundred small plants over the next five or ten years.

        • jousterusa

          I’m not sure there are a lot of ways to invest, either. Few of these outfits are public companies, and Dr. Mills has said he’s no longer accepting investments.

        • Omega Z

          Rossi thought Boilers may be a good business as LENR is not available to investment outside a select few.