Singularity University and the Energy Global Grand Challenge

Darlene Damm
May 30, 2019

“Which is the most important global grand challenge?” This is one of the questions people like to debate at Singularity University, and it’s a question I hear often. After all, there are twelve of them, and shouldn’t we try to prioritize the most important one? At the end of these discussions, people usually fall into two camps regarding global grand challenges (GGCs)—either settling on the Energy GGC as most important or the Learning GGC. The energy camp usually argues that if we have free reliable, renewable energy, we can then solve our food, water, shelter, health, environment, prosperity, learning, and all the other GGCs. Their main assumption is that energy is the most basic input needed for all these other areas to flourish. On the other hand, the learning camp argues that even if we have energy, we still need people with the right mindset, knowledge, and skills to solve our world’s problems and drive progress forward overall. What do you think?Here at Singularity University, we have a wide array of faculty, startups, and innovators working on solving the Energy GGC, which we define as creating a world with “ample, accessible, and sustainable energy for the needs of humanity.”

Solar panels and wind mills

SU Faculty cover the energy challenge from multiple perspectives

Our energy faculty join us from around the world. Gregg Maryniak and Ramez Naam are the Chairs of our Energy and Environmental Systems tracks. Gregg Maryniak’s talks span a number of topics including Energy and Environmental Systems, Energy, Energy Conservation and Energy Ethics, Energy Networks, The Energy Race, and the Seven Secrets of Energy Storage. Ramez Naam’s talks include Energy and the Environment, Energy Disrupted, Global Planetary Optimism, and How Clean Energy is Disrupting the $6 Trillion Energy Industry and How to Profit. Ramez Naam also brings a science fiction angle to his work, as the writer of The Nexus Trilogy science fiction series, and takes a comprehensive look at energy in terms of how it intersects with social challenges and the future of humanity.SingularityU Netherland Faculty Arash Aazami speaks about the Internet of Energy. He founded the world’s first energy company that earns more as it sells less energy, as well as and the IoE Initiative, which focus on the Internet of Energy and the democratization of energy. Elisabeth Brinton has a strong background in entrepreneurship, business, and energy for both startups and large companies and SingularityU Canada Faculty Jane Kearns covers energy and cleantech and works at the intersection of energy, entrepreneurship, finance, venture capital and sustainability (check out her webinar “Energy in Transition, Opportunity in Disruption”). Our speaker Dr. Jonathan Foley covers the connections between environmental sustainability and energy, speaker Dr. Michel Gelobter works at the intersection of energy, social change, and social justice. Speaker Ryan Kushner covers energy and climate, especially in relation to entrepreneurial ecosystems including incubators, accelerators, venture studios, and prize challenges. Be sure to also check out my previous article on Singularity University and the Environment Global Grand Challenge, which overlaps with the Energy GGC.

Solar panels.

Our startups and community are building novel solutions

In addition to our Faculty, our startups and global community are also on the ground trying to solve the Energy GGC.SU Portfolio Company, Semtive builds affordable wind turbines. The company’s vertical axis wind turbines can operate at extremely low wind speeds, are virtually noiseless, have a lifetime guarantee, can be installed in under an hour, are low-maintenance, and cover their costs in about two-seven years. They are designed for both homes and businesses.Singularity University also collaborated with American Electric Power to bring exponential thinking and solutions into their company. American Electric Power, based in Columbus, Ohio, serves over 5.4 million Americans. SU worked with the company to help it transform itself from a traditional utility company into an agile, innovative company where employees use exponential thinking to quickly deliver new solutions to customers. You can read the case study here.Finally, be sure to check out our ebook, Roadmap to Renewable Energy. Published earlier this year, it summarizes the latest in exponential technologies and innovations in the field, and the key barriers and solutions we need to execute to live in a world powered by affordable renewable energy.

Are you addressing energy challenges?

Are you working on a solution to global energy challenges? Let us know by logging an impact activity in the SU App, where you can learn about and be connected to other innovators in our ecosystem. You might also consider applying to our Global Startup Program if you’re with a startup, or our Executive Program if you’re a senior leader looking to have a positive impact at scale and are interested in examining how key converging technologies are shaping our future.