On one hand, the rise of renewable energy, even before the 100% goal, will bring superavit of power. This means there will be excess power that is not required in the system. It already is happening and it will be even more so. This power can be stored, but of course, using it directly is more efficient and thus, preferable.
On the other hand, the penetration of robotics and software will change the jobs available for humans, as is in discussion in Davos these days. This means there will also be a superavit of productivity.
We will have Superavit of Power and Superavit of Productivity, that we must use wisely to make a better world. Funnily, it’s just the ABB mission (the company I happen to work for) made in excess.
Meanwhile, the resources available for producing, even with advanced automation and abundant power are limited…
The question is; what and with what inputs will we produce with the excess power & productivity?
And also, why? The end goal should be prosperity and sustainability, not mere production.
We already have a superavit of data and information, that with power and software can be utilized to produce knowledge and guide decision making. (What we call Big Data)
But it doesn’t happen so with other resources.
My guess is that the production will have to be part of a circular economy, of recycling waste into products, or upcycling products into other products. An example of this is the automation of ocean plastic recovery and production (similar to this idea). Other are biorefineries, where biowaste will be the input for several products. Or mega factories that could automate the electrification and upgrade of existing vehicles to move faster towards sustainable mobility.
There are plenty of other examples to develop, such as:
- The use of excess power, should be CO2 capture, here the automation plays the important role of controlling unmanned CO2-capturing plants to use excess power.
- Food and water production, where the resources are limited but automation and abundant power can improve productivity, using desalination plants and automated greenhouses.
A step forward and also a more futuristic view is the automation of desert foresting. Excess power will fuel the robots installing solar plants, water desalination plants and greenhouses in an automated process to “conquer” the deserts. A feed-back loop where the limitation will only be the raw materials. But this is worth a dedicated post.