Already rising electricity demand is set to explode, not just from the current and planned electrification via EV’s of our transportation fleets, but also due to the ongoing digitalisation of human activity and the exponential growth in data storage and transmission this creates. The data centre infrastructure needed to service the digital economy continues to grow apace and these centres may consume some 20 percent of global energy in coming decades. At the same time, the growth potential for energy looks highly constrained on the one hand by the unacceptably dirty climate-altering legacy fossil fuels and the frustratingly diffuse and intermittent alternatives like wind and solar.
In 2023, owners of major technology companies and other technophile billionaires grow impatient with the lack of progress in developing the necessary energy infrastructure that would allow them to both pursue their dreams as well as address the needed energy transition. Teaming up, they create a consortium code-named Third Stone, with the goal of raising over a trillion dollars to invest in energy solutions. It’s the largest research and development effort since the original Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb. In addition to pure research and development efforts aimed at realising the potential of current and groundbreaking new technologies, the fund will focus extensively on integration as well, or how to combine new generation sources with the power transmission and energy storage infrastructure that delivers baseload, the Achilles’ heel of current alternative energy solutions.
The fund also dedicates a significant chunk of its investment budget to artificial intelligence (AI), which has shown promise beyond prior expectations of what was possible in some areas of scientific research. A recent example is AlphaFold, an AI programme that made transformational progress in predicting the structures of proteins, a devilishly difficult computational task. The fund aims some initial AI efforts at solving the last wrinkles in solid state battery science, which will drive a leapfrog advance in EV adoption, due to far superior power density and faster charging times.
Market impact: the companies that partner with the Third Stone consortium and can help realise its vision soar in value in an otherwise weak investment environment.