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Behind the Scenes, Day 3, Part II: a Tough Day, a Personal Request

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Graeme Stemp-Morlock
6:30pm -8:00pm. June 8, 2011
Energy 2030 Working Sessions


Delegates spent the day trying to distill the transformational elements of several exciting new technologies, while the steering committee challenged them to focus on key levers that they could push personally to accelerate developments towards 2030.

In the beginning of one round of discussions, delegates were reminded: "Today is not about the big picture and solving energy everywhere. It is about finding the spot where can we get major traction, focusing on key areas to explore and cutting out the rest."

The sprint to the finish line

Several daring technologies have been discussed throughout the conference, but the time for technical discussions is over. 

Now, delegates are taking the most promising technologies and putting them on an ambitious implementation pathway that begins tomorrow.

But can we do it by 2030?

Many delegates have labored to find initiatives that can be enacted in the near term. For instance, engineered geothermal systems received widespread interest from delegates, but how do you push a project that will require billions of dollars to drill for heat trapped 4-6km below the ground?

To assist with the process several advisors have been aggressively challenging delegates to think in specific, measurable, actionable, and realistic terms. 

In every case this has meant decisions that highlight areas where the technology is most likely to succeed, while ignoring the rest.

Pickin’ a winner…

For geothermal, for example, this has meant much of the discussion focused on finding prime targets for early exploration and demonstration projects, most likely in the Pacific Rim.

Alternatively, special attention has also been paid to countries with policies and burgeoning industries that could support geothermal development, such as in Iceland or Indonesia.

So who's paying for all this?

Large chunks of money will need to be found to truly speed up developments in industries such as geothermal. Consider that it costs millions of dollars just to drill a hole deep enough to assess the underground heat situation.

With that in mind, delegates were constantly told to "Think not just about policy and technology but also commercial outcomes for various markets. Where's the gap this idea is going to fill?"

Final countdown…

In one instance delegates talked about today, some suggested selling organic photovoltaic solar panels that have extreme flexibility and portability to disaster relief agencies or militaries. (These organizations often must pay large amounts to get energy in some of the most dangerous places in the world.)

Even with a host of bold plans being championed by some of the smartest minds in the world, tensions are high at the end of the day as the struggle to craft tomorrow’s communiqué and public announcements takes centre stage.


Written by: Graeme Stemp-Morlock

Graeme Stemp-Morlock is a freelance science writer based in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Graeme has the opportunity to sit in on all the Equinox Summit: Energy 2030 working sessions. His writing has been published in Popular Science, National Geographic News, Reader’s Digest Canada Online, Environmental Health Perspectives, and Green Living Online.