The future of innovation will focus on green and clean energy, its production and use. The recent U.N experts’ reports, the increase in oil prices, the recent United-States elections and presidential debates show the urgency of finding new ways to produce and use this kind of energy.
It was brave of Barack Obama, the next 44th president of the United-States, to admit that the US cannot continue to use energy as they do actually and it is time to invest in clean renewable and non-renewable energy solutions. However, it is important to remember that environmentally friendly solutions consist of more than just clean energy sources, and should also cover consumption behaviours and technologies on which they are based.
We believe that the focal points of future innovations in energy will focus on: i) advanced technology to produce green, clean, affordable and reliable energy based on wind, solar, hydropower and ocean energy, geothermal energy, biomass, etc.; ii) higher-efficiency residential appliance and commercial equipment that can help reduce energy waste and pollution (zero waste solutions). As a reminder, we consume more water than it takes to wash our hands, more energy than it takes to cook food, to run washing machines, to charge our phones and computers, etc.!; iii) the incorporation of humanities and social sciences into research and development in the field of energy for a better match between clean technologies and users’ behaviours. The issue here is more than just technical feasibility of green and clean solutions, technological change and users’ needs, and should also focus on the social and ethical dimensions of future solutions and innovations in the matter of energy. The recent history of nanotechnology and genetically modified foods is a good example to illustrate and understand these issues; iv) finally, new incentives to promote environmentally friendly lifestyles and high energy-efficiency products (taxation incentives, green insurance system, pricing reforms, etc.).
In this way, the future technological path in the energy sector should be similar to that of new information technologies: i) significant public investment in basic research and applied technologies; ii) commercial transfer of quasi-transversal technologies; iii) the first mover advantage in patenting and commercialisation of clean technologies.
The unequal access to new solutions in the matter of energy should be another point of similarity with the new information technologies sector. Indeed, the emergence of the new technological path in the field of energy should certainly raise the question of a possible “green & clean divide” between developed and developing countries. In this context, two issues should be addressed: i) to what extent the “green & clean divide” will be different from the so-called digital divide? And, of course, how to bridge the technological divide that should separate developed and less developed countries?
Finally, whatever the trends in the field of energy, unexpected events should certainly play a major role in this sector. Therefore, it would be interesting to know how and to what extent the future of innovation in this sector will surprise us.