Solar Futures, #1: Turning Dreams to Innovation

We announce a new series of blog posts about mega-trends in renewable energy and its wider economic, societal, and political implications.

Innovation starts with a dream and a puzzle. Every good startup nowadays has a hope behind it: to create value for the people, to solve some problem, not just for the sake of making money (otherwise they’d all just go to financial services, won’t they?)

So: first you have a dream, then you start tinkering with it, and you end up with a puzzle. That’s where the whole innovation thing really begins.

Take solar energy as an example. We all want to live in a cleaner, more sustainable world. Even you don’t, you have to, as the risks of climate change are very real. Even if not for you, certainly for you children’s children. Solar energy might be a solution.

Forecasted oil production peak and decline according to the Hubbert peak theory. Picture credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hubbert_peak_oil_plot.svg

But wait. Our world is based on the exploitation of natural resources, the fossil fuels. We all know it is not going to last that way. But what can be done about it, really? How can you challenge the big corporate and political machines behind the extraction of oil, natural gas, and coal? Even if you want to go beyond it, the very possibility of a “green transition” sounds so improbable.

Or so it did just a few decades ago. Look at this chart we’ve published in one of our previous posts. Think about what it tells you. Behind this rather simplistic representation are massive efforts of some of the world’s brightest minds who are working hard to explore the possibilities of making solar energy a viable option. Here’s how a dream becomes a problem.

Source: Web of Knowledge data, Solar DAO research.

Ok, but research is not enough. So many innovations failed because of the lack of commercialization incentives. Our economic life works on incentives. So how do you make people interested in funding solar energy? What is the optimal mechanism to make people invest in solar, and protect their investments? How to make it work?

Blockchain can help here. Seizing the opportunity of using decentralized, anonymous, but secure exchange system can destroy the entry barriers. Minimize transaction costs and make investments in solar energy available for everyone. Show that small is beautiful. That you can participate with just $1 in your pocket. That it is, in fact, very simple, to contribute to the “green transition”. Enroll the best experts to make sure the investments will pay off. Call it Solar DAO.

Here’s how a problem turns to a puzzle. The difference is that puzzles are, by definition, solvable. You just need to find the solution. And this is what innovation means: creating new combinations to make value.

The first lesson is that innovation is about hopes and fears, puzzles and keys. It’s not just about money-making and pleasing one’s ego. It’s about combining things anew and building stable alliances. It’s about how to reverse the balance of forces.

Stage 1: you are alone against the oil giants and fossil fuel states. All you have is your dreams, laughably improbable. You switch the balance, and here we are:

Stage 2: crowds of small investors that share a collective vision cannot be ignored. The crowd is joined by a professional team working hard to make solar energy economically possible. Dreams become innovations.

The second lesson is that innovation can create outsized value. It’s like entering an unexplored country: you do what nobody else has ever done, you discover a new terrain of value nobody else has discovered. The good news are that real innovation is incomparable to the business-as-usual, and so are the profits. In other words, efforts pay off. Again, it’s about the balance of forces. In the case of innovation, small efforts (remember that $1!) pay off on a much larger scale.

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With the Solar Futures #1 we start a new series of regular blog posts, in addition to #SolarEconomics, #SolarStocks, and #SolarNews. Along with the regular updates on the project, it will remind our investors and followers about why we need Solar DAO in the first place. #SolarFutures will talk about how renewable energy can change the way we live, use resources, and do politics. It will monitor and discuss global trends in renewable energy and blockchain, to keep you informed about the wider context in which Solar DAO is operating.

Next time we’ll post about how fossil fuels are related to democratic politics, and what are the implication of renewables in this context. Stay tuned.

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