Published on March 27th, 2016 | by Zachary Shahan


Cleantech Disruption — My Presentation At Institutional Investment Conference In India (Video)

March 27th, 2016 by  

Last month, I went to Mumbai, India, to present at an institutional investment conference that was focused on disruptive technology. Complementing presentations by Piyush Goyal (India’s Minister of State for Power, Coal, and New and Renewable Energy) and Pashupathy Gopalan (SunEdison’s Asia Pacific President), I presented on cleantech disruption — the market disruption from solar power, wind power, and electric vehicles that has already begun and will certainly hasten quickly in the years to come.

Check out my presentation below. Although the presentation screen is not very sharp and quite difficult to read, my slides are right below the video, so you can easily skip through them while listening to the talk. Below the video and slides are notes about what I discussed in different segments of the video.

1:00 → I introduce the theme of the presentation, which is a combination of “the future is now” and “change, change, change,” coming together in this instance as “clean disruption.” (I later realized that’s the name of what I’ve heard is a great book by Tony Seba — apologies, Tony, for using the term without request, but I hope you see it as a good advertisement and use of the term! 😀 )

1:35 → I then slide into some brief highlights of other technology shifts we’ve experienced in order to put these themes into context and help convey the specific points of the rest of the presentation.

4:35 → One of the keys to a disruptive technology actually becoming disruptive is the price being right, but once the price is right, the story regarding that technology takes a massive shift in direction. Disruptive technology typically doesn’t take over the market in a linear fashion, but in an exponential manner — which is largely why “disruptive technology” surprises people (even the incumbent industry experts) time and time again, and why it really deserves its name. I highlight this with a handful of great charts I’ve gathered over the years.

7:05 →  Finally, I dive into how these topics relate to solar energy and wind energy, highlighting some of my favorite clean energy charts (which you should be familiar with). This involves charts on annual renewable energy potential vs energy potential from total known fossil fuel reserves, renewable energy price trends, renewable energy growth trends, how projections from even a couple years ago are now clearly off the mark, and how renewable energy technologies compare to fossil fuels on price (hint: very well).

14:40 → With all of those attractive numbers and charts out there, I then ask the inevitable question: Why aren’t renewables growing even faster? One key reason, in my opinion, is simply the powerful effect of societal inertia. Part of that inertia is due to lack of awareness (which is the barrier I often focus on)… but not all of it. I expound on these matters more here than I think I have anywhere else (particularly because the audience was institutional investors, analysts, etc., who didn’t necessarily have much background knowledge on renewables or electric vehicles).

16:55 → Eventually, though, inertia is on our side, so I speak a little bit about our transition into that period, which I think is just starting with renewables, but is yet to kick in with EVs.

17:47 → Coming back to the start, though, I note that a catalyst is needed to help disruptive technology break through to the mass market, people who will largely sit contently with the current situation if not really stimulated. A lower price is generally part of that stimulus, but some external catalyst is still needed much of the time, at least to hasten the transition. One thing that is typically needed is a better product. So, I put a spotlight on some of the obvious and not-so-obvious ways clean technologies are better products. As part of that, 19:00 minutes in, I jump off of a great article by Christopher Arcus (which I had just edited) that comments on countries ignoring the lessons of more developed countries and following them down the same deadly path of extreme pollution. I also reference a recent study showing that we have 10,000 years of sea level rise on order if we don’t stop global warming quickly. Talk about a mistake for the history books….

22:07 → I finally get around to discussing electric vehicles directly, starting with their clear societal benefits, and also highlighting two consumer benefits that most people who haven’t driven electric vehicles aren’t aware of (yep, instant torque and superior convenience).

26:48 → Delving into numbers again, I discuss EV cost trends and the point at which EVs are expected to be “cost competitive” with gasmobiles — not accounting for the superior consumer aspects of EVs, nor the clear societal benefits. (If you watched my EV Transportation & Technology Summit presentation, you’ve already seen much of this, with a couple of updates from Tesla.)

31:35 → Pulling again from my EV Summit presentation, I also acknowledge one of the remaining barriers to broader EV adoption, and the fact that Tesla is the only company demonstrably knocking down a large part of the barrier — super-fast charging for long-distance trips. I briefly discuss why incumbent automakers may be dragging their feet in this regard. I also slide into comments touching on these stories:

39:30 → I add a few final comments highlighting stats that I thought to add while watching other presentations earlier in the day. Here are some articles on those:

41:10 → Q&A begins.

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Mike Dill

    Tony Seba thinks we will be at what he calls ‘God Parity” for rooftop solar in a few years. That is when electricity from your roof costs less than the cost of transmission. So no mater what the utility does, the electrons from your roof will cost less. At that point the only rational option is generating your own.
    Electricity already costs less than diesel or petrol. The battery prices are plummeting. We will see this transition becoming mainstream globally by 2020.

    • Bob_Wallace

      The question is how much would it cost you to save that electricity.

      What would it cost to save enough electricity to carry you through a week or two of no sunshine? And save, not generate fill-in power by burning fossil fuels.

      • Mike Dill

        Bob, you are correct, as getting better than 95% reliability without an external power source is not economic unless batteries are really cheap. The projection that I use requires an external source of power. Running a residence without that external backup would require a storage system that would hold a full week, or about seven times my estimate.
        So, let us assume that battery storage will get down to US$100/kWh by 2020. If that storage is good for 5000 cycles, then the cost per KWh will be about US$0.02/kWh for each kWh stored. Already, the cost of a solar PV system in Germany and Australia is about US$2.00/watt, and over a twenty year payback that is about US$0.02/kWh.
        We will assume that you have enough solar PV for 1.5 day of nominal usage and one day worth of storage. When we get to the costs described above, you end up at an average of about US$0.04/kWh including the necessary emergency backup for cloudy weeks.
        I will have a EV that can transport a few kWh between a charging station and my house (V2G) for the exceptional case you describe, which according to the weather people happens perhaps two or three times a year or about 5% of the time. You might have a backup generator for those weeks. While this backup is relatively expensive (my guess is about US$0.50/kWh) because it happens relatively infrequently, the averaged cost is relatively low.
        For my residence, the total cost for my maximum summer load of 40kWh would be about US$20.000 for the solar (8kW) and US$8.000 for the battery (40kWh), including installation, and whatever extra it would cost for the backup.

        • Bob_Wallace

          I’d need more than two weeks storage. I ran my generator every day but one during a two week stretch in March.

  • Kyle Field

    Great stuff 🙂
    Education creates inertia. Let’s educate.
    Need more Tesla ride and drive events. Other EVs are great…but the Tesla wows people and hooks them in. Even more so after the Model 3 comes out.

    • Frank

      I saw something somewhere that the laws that were put in place to protect dealers were created because of real problems with manufacturers mistreating them. Of course Tesla has no dealers. I can buy anything else I want including a house without one. So I’m wondering whether these dealer laws shoud be modified? Thrown out? Or just not apply to Tesla?

      • Bob_Wallace

        I don’t think these laws that attempt to keep Tesla from selling their cars directly to customers would stand up in court.

        How would one make a case that it is fine for manufacturers of any other product to sell directly to customers except for car manufacturers? All the way from building bird houses in your basement and selling them at Christmas fairs to factory outlet stores. Direct selling is common.

        • Frank
          • Bob_Wallace

            “Texas has a very robust, very open, very effective automobile sector that seems like it’s working quite well the way that it is,” – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

            Which says nothing about whether Texas’s exclusionary practices would hold up in court.

            What argument could one make that cars, unlike everything else, must be sold by third party dealerships? In Texas you can buy boats and airplanes directly from manufacturers.

            I think Tesla is avoiding being too confrontational at this point. As long as they can sell all the cars they can produce to people outside these states they can wait for pressure to build within the state and let citizens do the work for them.

      • Kyle Field

        I vote to throw them out. If I can buy a car over the internet without ever having seen it or setting foot in the dealership I bought it from, I see no need to have the dealership. Replace them with internet relevant consumer protection laws and put a bow on it.

  • Go Zach! Nice job.

  • kart

    Hey Zachary ,

    Greetings from India. Nice presentation. Good to see you in India. BTW Check this out if you haven’t already 😛 Exciting times ahead 🙂

  • Dan

    So encouraging! Bravo on laying out such an excellent case for the bright future of renewables and electric cars.

    Climate change may be unavoidable to a significant degree, but these trends give me hope that humanity will be able to endure and even thrive. The next level after emmisions free electricity and transportation and also after fresh water desalination/purification is environmental restoration which we should be working on more now too.

    The greatest carbon sequestration potential is in nurturing marine habitats and encouraging reforestation around the world. It is likely more sequestration on top of that will be needed, but restoring habitats will provide a biosphere that is resilient and that we are not ashamed to have exterminated. The danger in sustaining human civilization with renewables is that we will continue to destroy the environment in other ways, only to cause complete ecological collapse and suffer along with the remaining life on Earth.

    A culture based off sustainable energy and agriculture may also be more inclined to be proactive towards repairing the environment. I worry about the plastic in the ocean nearly every day. We have a lot to be hopeful about, but we also cannot be too confident in trends like the disruptive rise of renewables and electric cars. Humanity has a lot of work to do if we are going to leave a healthy world to our children…

    • Frank

      There was a really interesting TED talk on removing plastic from oceans. Young punk, like 20. The idea is to moor these things which removes plastic, including particles with centerfuges where the ocean currents bring the plastic to it. He said they could make money selling the plastic they collect. Sure am curious whether that could work. It was on you tube.

    • Michael B

      I believe that the CCC planted 3 billion trees in the US during the depression. Is there any reason we can’t do the same now (or even more, around the world), or not be ashamed that we aren’t?

  • JamesWimberley

    Part of the answer to the question “why not faster?” can be found in the modish but still apt term “disruption”. The disrupted are the losers from change, and they are not happy. The renewables slowdown in Germany and their suspension in Spain can be traced to the negative impact on fossil fuel generators.

    Actually the conflict is less acute in developing countries. Rapidly growing demand means that renewables can coexist much more amicably with legacy fossil. There must still be a coal rundown, but it’s not forced by the wholesale electricity market – yet.

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