A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending the labor-long weekend near Mammoth, CA. I will write a separate article about this as the trip was epic. The purpose of this article is to share a reflection I had while visiting the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. This is an incredible forest of trees living up to 4000 years old.

Adversity will leverage the energy transition to greater heights

This forest blew my mind, it was found at high elevations over 10,000 ft and in extremely poor nutrient soils. The forest survival is based on growing slow to grow old. The trees that grew at altitude and in poor nutrient and very dry soils produced only tiny amounts of growth per year, but the wood produced is hard and resin filled, being resistant to insects, disease and decay. They keep their pine needles for up to 40 years to conserve energy and survive with only a little bit of tree bark to connect the libs to the roots.

Further, in such conditions, the trees have to grow further apart, so as to not compete for precious nutrients – creating a natural firebreak and with no undergrowth, the fire risk becomes very low. These adaptations result in trees growing for thousands of years. In comparison, the same tree growing in more nutrient-rich soils and at lower elevations grow faster and taller but die young.

Where I visited, they use the Shakespeare quote “sweet are the uses of adversity” and the Ancient Forest was a prime example of this.

Adversity and the Energy Transition

Sweet are the uses of adversity in the energy transition

There’s no doubt that the energy transition is one of the most pressing issues of our time. It is arguably one of the most difficult challenges we face. But what if I told you that, through adversity, we can create a more sustainable future?

There is a deepening understanding globally that energy access (secure, reliable, resilient and cost-effective energy) is linked to higher standards of living. The developed world, particularly Europe has in the last few months shifted from an economy with an energy surplus to having a shortage. This shortage is having significant impacts on the economy, the competitiveness of industrial production, agriculture (access to fertilizers etc), prices of goods and services and the safety of communities.

Locally in CA, due to an unseasonable heat wave as a community, we had to come together to conserve energy to minimize the risk of rolling blackouts. The energy system is finely balanced and complex and it does not take much of a disruption to threaten its ability to meet our needs. As we electrify everything, there is an increasing need and expectation that we will have access to reliable power 24/7 at a price point that is cost-competitive. The current system is not designed to meet these needs, especially in a sustainable way.

Developing Sustainable Energy Solutions for the Future

I believe that these challenges will highlight that there is no quick fix, there is no silver bullet and the energy transition is complex. It can not be led by knee-jerk political decisions with no basis for reality, and instead must be based on science, data, cost-benefit analysis and technological realities.

This transition will be decades in the making and like the Ancient Forest we need to adapt to our surroundings and develop a solution that will be lasting, resilient and sustainable. Quick fixes will look good in the short term but will only defer the problem.

We have all become hypersensitive to how critical energy is to our lives and businesses. This adversity, while painful, will force us to innovate and come up with new ways to meet our energy needs. It will also result in better and more positive outcomes relating to the energy transition.

I remain optimistic about the future. I strongly believe that the capabilities and services exist in the market today to meet our needs – the key is to bring them together to address specific needs and objectives and translate this complex challenge into more simple actionable steps – we can do this through technology!

Adversity can be difficult, but it can also lead to positive change. So let’s embrace the challenge and work together to build a more sustainable, profitable and thriving future.

How do we best leverage adversity to be better? Share your thoughts with us.

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Photo credit: @siebrandjeff