“Renewable Energy is Taking Over”. Two Men. Two Positive Views.

March 17, 2015

On my way to Oslo last week, I read a Fortune Magazine interview with one of Norway’s most successful and reclusive business leaders, Fred Olsen – who has built a fortune in shipping, as well as Oil – but, having awakened to the threat of climate change, is now one of the world’s leaders in Wind and renewable energy.
I mused at the possibility of tracking Mr. Olsen down if I had some free time – turns out, I didn’t have to. He was in attendance at the Economist Arctic Summit, and listening intently. And, he was kind enough to grant an interview, with his thoughts on the stunning emergence of renewable energy as a major competitor to fossil fuels.  A short version is above.

Fortune:

The world of business is not populated with many truly unconventional thinkers—except, of course, at the top of some of its most revolutionary companies. Think of other non–college grads who took a radical approach and stuck to it fearlessly: Steve Jobs created world-changing products at Apple. Bill Gates followed his passion for programming to build Microsoft, the world’s largest software company. And Sir Richard Branson has battled the establishment in everything from music to airlines.

Like them, Olsen is a dreamer who acts—and rarely follows the expected script. Heir to a shipping fortune, Olsen steered the family businesses in a new direction, first leading the North Sea oil revolution, then becoming one of the world’s foremost pioneers in wind power. But that’s just the beginning of his story. Given his over-the-top life experiences, maybe it’s Olsen, not the bearded adventurer from the Dos Equis beer commercials, who is really “The Most Interesting Man in the World.”

In the late 1960s, Olsen led the first Norwegian group to drill for oil in the North Sea. Shortly thereafter, his company’s rig made the first discovery in Ekofisk, one of the largest deepwater oilfields ever developed. Olsen also co-founded Norway’s first private oil company, Saga Petroleum, and rallied the Norwegian industry to build expertise in oilfield products and services, a course that helped make his homeland one of the richest nations on earth.

Since he branched out into renewable energy in the 1990s, Olsen’s companies have invested more than $1 billion in wind power. Olsen is now the biggest independent, meaning non-utility, provider of wind electricity in Britain. Today he’s focusing on the fastest-growing market in renewables: offshore wind. His companies installed one in five new offshore turbines last year in Europe, the world’s largest market. He’s also installing the first sea-based wind farm in the U.S., located off the coast of Rhode Island.

In the course of editing that, I came across the article below, in the New York Times, describing the growing optimism of Al Gore, whose Climate Reality project has had a major influence in educating and informing world opinion on climate change – which is now swinging decidedly in the recognition of overwhelming scientific consensus, as well as the now-deafening voice of the planet itself.  Mr Gore, with keen insight into the renewable energy space, is also seeing a paradigm shift.

New York Times:

Over the last year, however, the prophet of doom has become much more a prophet of possibility — even, perhaps, an optimist. Still an object of derision for the political right, Mr. Gore has seen support for his views rising within the business community: Investment in renewable energy sources like wind and solar is skyrocketing as their costs plummet. He has slides for that, too. Experts predicted in 2000 that wind generated power worldwide would reach 30 gigawatts; by 2010, it was 200 gigawatts, and by last year it reached nearly 370, or more than 12 times higher. Installations of solar power would add one new gigawatt per year by 2010, predictions in 2002 stated. It turned out to be 17 times that by 2010 and 48 times that amount last year.

“I think most people have been surprised, even shocked, by how quickly the cost has come down,” Mr. Gore says in his office in an environmentally friendly building in the prosperous Green Hills neighborhood of Nashville. He sports a style that might be called Southern business casual: a blazer and dress shirt, bluejeans and cowboy boots. At age 66, he is also trimmer than he was during his bearish, bearded period after the 2000 election, thanks in part to a vegan diet he has maintained for two years. In this city? Home of heavenly meat-and-three platters?

He smiles and says proudly, “There are 10 vegan restaurants in Nashville now.”

Over an hour and a half, he delivers an endless stream of facts and trends from around the globe. Every minute in Bangladesh, two more homes get new rooftop solar panels. Dubai’s state utility accepted a bid for a solar power plant with a cost per kilowatt-hour of less than six cents. “Wow,” he says, his eyes wide. “That just set everybody on their ear.”

Such changes, he says, represent a sharp break with the past, not a slow evolution. That is the point of those slides on his laptop. In 1980, one shows, consultants for AT&T projected that 900,000 cellphones might be sold by 2000. In fact, there were 109 million by then. Today there are some seven billion. “So the question is: Why were they not only wrong, but way wrong?” he says. He presses a button, and up pops an old photo of a young Al Gore with a helmet of hair and an early mobile phone roughly the size of one of Michael Jordan’s sneakers.

The same kind of transformation that turned those expensive, clunkers into powerful computers in every pocket is happening now in energy, he says, with new technology leapfrogging old infrastructure. “It’s coming so fast,” he says. “It’s very, very exciting.”

4 Responses to ““Renewable Energy is Taking Over”. Two Men. Two Positive Views.”

  1. John Says:

    Reblogged this on jpratt27.


  2. […] VIDEO:“Renewable Energy is Taking Over”. Two Men. Two Positive Views. (Climate Crocks) [emphasis added]: [O]ne of Norway’s most successful and reclusive business leaders, Fred Olsen – who has built a fortune in shipping, as well as Oil – but, having awakened to the threat of climate change, is now one of the world’s leaders in Wind and renewable energy…he was kind enough to grant an interview, with his thoughts on the stunning emergence of renewable energy as a major competitor to fossil fuels. […]


  3. […] “Renewable Energy is Taking Over.” Two Men. Two Positive Views. […]


  4. […] “Renewable Energy is Taking Over.” Two Men. Two Positive Views. […]


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