Greener lifestyles will be driven in part by the actions people choose to take to go green, but also by the development of new technologies. In fact, it may be the new, innovative technologies that provide the largest benefits of going green.
Billions of dollars in investments have been directed into the development alternative energy technologies over the past several years. The rate of innovation is rapid and the level of competition between companies is intense. This is precisely the ideal situation to give birth to novel, disruptive technologies that will have a profound effect on the world for years.
The Boston Consulting Group has published a report in which it attempts to identify the four areas most likely to benefit from disruptive technological developments that cause significant changes in energy efficiency and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
What are those four areas?
The first is advanced biofuels, which means fuels beyond ethanol. Ethanol has the main benefit that we can produce it now and it is domestic, which reduces our dependence on imported oil for transportation fuel. But ethanol is a poor fuel relative to gasoline, having only about 60% of the fuel value. Ethanol is also corrosive and absorbs water from the atmosphere, making it incompatible with current pipeline infrastructure. Advanced biofuels will be more gasoline-like and will be produced predominantly from waste products like cellulose and non-food crops like switchgrass, avoiding the crowding out of food crops caused by existing corn-based ethanol.
The second disruptive technology will be wind power. Wind power is already cost competitive in many part of the world at 9-10 cents per kilowatt-hour. However, companies in China are already gearing up to produce wind turbines en masse, which will bring the cost down further. As more transmission lines are added to transport wind generated power to places where it can be consumed, you can expect wind to command a larger share of national energy output.