Water: the next frontier in energy innovation….

May 20, 2008

Finally Bill Aulet takes the leap and writes about Water. He is both knowledgeable and spends a lot of time thinking about these issues…so when he writes, I pay attention. Click here for what I wrote on water a few months ago.

My comment to Bill:

I was hoping somebody would write on water. Thanks. While the average were running after nanotech/biotech deals 5-8 years ago, the cunning were starting to see environmental tech on the horizon. Now that the average are running after energy deals, the smart should be thinking about water.

I don’t mean any offense to those in the industry, but you are dead-on that the decision makers in the water business are slow, relatively non-techie, and risk-averse. Having worked in the next slowest industry, i.e. automotive, I can imagine how hard it is to sell into it. But is there a way to approach the customers directly who would be more willing to pay than the middle-man thinks? I can tell you my family in urban Pakistan would pay a lot more for clean water (and are more used to it) than an average American.

It is interesting that some of the issues faced by water innovators parallel those in energy: (a) geographical distribution of markets, (b) centralized vs distributed systems, (c) scalability issues, (d) mismatch between rhetoric and action at governmental level, and (e) lack of entrepreneurs/investors who are willing to stick with long-term endeavors.

I agree with your comment above that the water-energy nexus could be great for both. Energy companies could end up investing in water innovations while water companies would look for cheaper energy sources. I think we need to take energy and water technologies to regions where they are needed most to develop them fast and cost effectively, i.e. developing countries in Asia, Africa etc. And lets find long term investors (maybe the Middle East investors fit the bill) who are less scared of playing with commodities in such markets.

The Next Big Thing in Energy Innovation and Investing? Let’s Talk Water

Bill Aulet 5/20/08

Energy innovation and investing are exploding right now. Technological breakthroughs are seen as perhaps the greatest hope to solving our dire energy challenge. However, what is often overlooked is the link between finding or creating new sources of energy and the effects on food and water.

Indeed, if you think of energy as a coin, the flip side is water and food. The scary thing is that food and water are both lower on Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs—i.e., they are more fundamental to human survival. Yet, the current rush to create new sources of energy—including “clean” energy—may have potentially disastrous tradeoffs on our food and water supplies. Going forward, trading off energy creation for water—meaning creating new sources of energy that depend on heavy use of water, as many do—will be less and less acceptable. That’s why the most exciting opportunities in energy entrepreneurship and investment lie in strategies that create more water or energy without adversely affecting the other. Xconomy for more…