Power to the People = Bloom Energy

founder of Bloom energy with power brickCheck out this Reuters post on Bloom Energy, a well funded start-up that hopes to change the way electrical power is generated and distributed. They make a hydrogen powered fuel cell that powers your building (or eventually your home…)

Is Bloom Energy the next GE? | Analysis & Opinion | Reuters.

It’s worth noting, imho, that Bloom does not reduce our dependence on fossil fuel sources. Although it’s a “personal power plant” it still needs hydrogen to run it. ¬†Hydrogen that you get most cheaply from Natural Gas. In that respect, this is an evolutionary not a revolutionary shift in power supply.

However, the personal printer industry gives us a sneak peek into the potential that Bloom (and the many other innovative new power companies in start-up mode) represents. In the mid 1980′s companies like HP / IBM / Okidata / et al brought the power of printing to the consumer. Futurists declared that the combination of personal printing and innovations like email would make for a radical reduction in paper consumption.

The opposite happened.  We consume more paper than ever. However, we have the shifted power of communication from a few companies to many individuals and companies. And as personal computing (and the internet) matured, we have seen an even more radical shift in power of communication from a few media companies to bloggers, tweeters, etc.

While Bloom will not change the dependence on fossil fuel any more than the personal printer reduced the consumption of paper, Bloom (and it’s sibling start-ups) radically shift the political and economic landscape of power generation and distribution – from a few regulated monopolies to the individuals and companies that need the power.

This shift alone will almost certainly lead to more interesting innovation.

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