By: David C. Blivin Issue: Vision Section: Opinion According to Webster’s Dictionary vi-sion is defined as something seen in a dream or trance: a thought, concept, or object formed by the imagination: a manifestation to the senses of something immaterial: something seen.
Quite often influential leaders are said to have great vision. This ICOSA issue on vision contains a number of profiles of leaders across industries that have had significant impact on the world around us because of their vision. But hidden below the surface is the important distinction which needs to be made between vision and impact. As Webster correctly points out, vision is not tangible, it does not involve action, there is no inherent result from having vision, or a vision. This can result in the great pitfall of many—the misperception that great vision leads to great results. Conversely, according to Webster’s Dictionary lead-er-ship is defined as the capacity to lead: the act or an instance of leading. Naturally, those who are considered to be great leaders are said to have the ability to lead. But it is important to note that there is nothing inherent in the ability to lead that suggests where the followers will be led. So having a vision of a direction which will result in great collective impact must be married with leadership to attain the results commonly attributed to great leadership.
This is where leaders distinguish themselves. It is not only that they have a vision for something different. They have the ability to translate that vision to a collective effort. They have the ability to inspire, motivate and move to action many others behind a common vision that they can articulate. They can provide a focus to cause and action that others can support in execution. Great results require great vision, but a great vision will not result in a great outcome without leadership.
The Earliest Demands For Energy
It is clear from their names that the Global New Energy Summit and Global New Energy Network are focused on supporting the energy discussion. They are platforms which our energy leaders can use to communicate their ideas and hope to recruit supporters for their vision for the energy industry.
Access to energy is at the foundation of every society. It enables everything from basic lighting to global communication, yet it is generally taken for granted. We plug a device into an outlet and expect electricity to flow without giving it a second thought. Energy is the source of competitive advantage and the key to economic prosperity. Yet getting energy out of base elements, refined, distributed and coupled with voltage control is a highly complex value chain. Archeological sites show oil was used as a fuel source over 6,000 years ago by the Assyrians and Babylonians. The Chinese were using coal as fuel to smelt copper over 3,000 years ago. The demand for energy has been with mankind for about as long as we have been on the planet.
Access to energy is also often the source of conflict. Consider the vision Ben Franklin had of harnessing the energy of lightening; and the ultimately resulting emotional and political battles of direct current versus alternating current between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.
The energy industry continued to evolve and so did the scale of the resulting conflicts. Converting coal in order to power trains took place in the earliest stages of this country’s growth. The discovery of oil at the Drake Well in 1859 completely changed the way we and the rest of the world live today. The vision of oil as a source of illumination, and bringing that vision to reality required the multidisciplinary efforts of George Bissell, a lawyer; working with Benjamin Silliman, Jr., a Yale chemist; and James Townsend, president of a bank.
There is a direct relationship between energy consumption and GDP. The most economically developed countries are also the largest consumers of energy. Second world countries seeking to become first world (China, India, Brazil and Russia) are quickly becoming massive energy consumers. Their insatiable energy demands, coupled with developed nations’ insatiable demands, are adding extreme pressure to a market that is already heavily taxed in its ability to meet current energy needs. This year’s Global New Energy Summit (GNES) has added an international expo specifically to highlight the evolving energy initiatives around the globe.
The Energy Industry Today
The energy industry today necessarily is taking a multipronged approach to meeting growing market demands. All of the traditional energy sources such oil and natural gas, coal, and nuclear are racing to find, refine, and deliver energy to the market. The companies in these markets are learning that they cannot meet market demand under the status quo. The demand is too great and continues to grow. The traditional energy players, along with the various capital markets, are investing heavily in emerging technologies to supplement and meet market demands, as well as, to begin to address environmental concerns with fossil based sources. These investments include algae, biofuels, geothermal, hydro, solar, and wind. From a practical standpoint, what has been consistently highlighted by discussions at the GNES, the demand for energy is so great around the globe that a single source cannot meet the market requirements. Collaboration and cooperation across sources most often emerges as the most viable path to progress on both the policy and execution fronts.
In addition, greater efficiency in utilizing our energy is often cited as the most cost effective approach to reducing our demand for fossil fuels. Information technology is being applied to the grid, private homes and commercial buildings in an effort to throttle peak demand. There will always be a need for intelligence being applied to the power infrastructure, but the bigger question is: Who will be performing the management function—the private citizen or the utility company? The answer to that question will determine the number of IP-centric power management tool and device companies that remain in the market.
The 2012 Global New Energy Summit is hosting visionaries and leaders from across the sources and distribution industries, and from across the primary disciplines of science/innovation, industry/markets, policy and capital. Among these, several are profiled in this issue of the magazine. These include Denis Hayes, Founder of Earth Day; Former Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Current President and CEO of Bullitt Foundation; Tom Daschle, Former Majority Leader of the Senate and Current Senior Policy Advisor with DLA Piper and Co-founder of the Bipartisan Policy Center; and Linda H. Blair, Executive Vice President and Chief Business Officer for ITC Holdings Corporation. Many of these visionaries are also strong interdisciplinary leaders recognizing the role each sector plays in bringing the future of energy to successful fruition.
While the theme is of this issue is vision, those profiled have demonstrated an uncommon capability to combine vision and leadership. In my roles as the executive producer of the Global New Energy Summit (GNES) and founder of the Global New Energy Network (GNEN) I have been fortunate to meet many of the above referenced. I can attest to their ability to inspire with clear vision and lead with a focus on results consistent with their vision.
Information Gathering and Sharing
We (the GNES and GNEN) don’t have the answers to the national and global energy debate. What we do have is the opportunity and ability to bring together visionaries and leaders, along with many of the key stakeholders to share ideas, collaborate, and generate new, innovative solutions to address the energy demand curve. Among those organizations contributing their leaders to the discussion are Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, ConocoPhillips, Council on Competitiveness, The Brookings Institute, The Virgin/Branson Organization, and Patton & Boggs.
The 4th Annual Global New Energy Summit will be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado from April 9-11, 2012. This year’s Summit has added an international exposition for participants to explore what energy solutions other countries are considering and investing in to meet their needs. There are participants from our national research laboratories, universities, capital providers, traditional energy providers, renewable energy providers and utilities. We invite you to join us to share in the information exchange and help in generating actionable ideas to solve global energy demands. To learn more about the Summit, or to register, go to http://www.globalnewenergysummit.org/register-now.
Further, don’t wait until April. Join the Global New Energy Network and begin to share your views now. http://www.globalnewenergynetwork.org.
David C. Blivin is the Managing Director at Cottonwood Technology Fund, the Executive Director of Global New Energy Summit and the Founder of the Global New Energy Network.