The U.S. energy sector has hit an innovation lull.
After a few years of accelerating adoption of renewable energy and smart grid technologies, not to mention excitement about electric cars and developing-world electrification opportunities, the shine is off much of the promise of a brave new energy world that seemed imminent in the high-priced markets of only a few years ago.
That is a natural reaction to the artificial boost of the energy-related stimulus spending in the first Obama term and includes a kind of relief on the part of energy sector planners that the natural gas boom (built on industry innovation now more than a decade old) will spare them the need for an expensive full-scale sector transformation. But some of that lull is because the business landscape remains a land of silos.
Renewable energy people don't speak to oil industry types (and very much vice versa). Financiers veer away from energy technology startups to focus on century-old revenue models they understand, and the marketing gurus fail to see the virtue of brands the public knows little about or simply reflexively don't like.
But for innovation and sector change to happen, all those industry silos have to find ways to work together and to do that they need places to meet. They need to exchange ideas that lie at the periphery of their comfort zones, and see how new challenges to their thinking can create new opportunities for their businesses.
That's why I am part of New York Energy Week. The industry has too long been defined by a mindset that doesn't allow for creative cross-fertilization of ideas and best practices, a mindset that includes a manifesto of reliability built for an economic model of scale and centralization that is quickly passing out of relevance.
At New York Energy Week, we've worked to bring the hackers at technology giants together with oil analysts, and to bring government watchdogs into conversation with self-professed disruptors. What better place to do that than New York City, where the entire world rubs shoulders on crowded streets and subways?
The U.S. energy sector is huge, profitable and a credit to the national and global economies. It is also too often invisible and isolated. I'm looking forward to seeing some unlikely conversations happen at New York Energy Week, and to having my own assumptions challenged.
What are you bringing to New York Energy Week?
Peter Gardett is the Founding Editor of Breaking Energy and a board member of New York Energy Week, running from June 24-28, 2013.