Future of energy supply: No focus on tomorrow

energy concepts | Smart energy | What will our energy supply look like in the future? This is a difficult question for which there is no clear-cut answer. But we can describe alternative developments. In our third scenario, competition has been taken to extremes. In this all-embracing rivalry everyone is focused on their own interests – and the energy sector is no exception.

When Wen Zhao tackles a project, it is pretty safe to assume that he is gold-plating it – too impressive are his business achievements over the past 20 years. In the year 2027, the businessman, coming from formerly simple circumstances, made his first million yuan – today it is many billions.

How did he manage that? By keeping a close eye on trends in all important markets and always acting with a cool head. But his most important helper on the way to the top was something else: his negotiating skills.

And so, Wen Zhao also owns a number of coal-fired power stations in Central China today. This energy source is extremely cheap and offers high profits. The businessman does not care about the damage it does to the environment, for he has learned that the heat waves and storm surges that are now regular occurrences always affect others – some faraway islands or coastal regions that have no chance in an atmosphere that has warmed by four degrees Celsius. “Bad luck,” he thinks, with no pangs of guilt as he looks out of his office at the smoking chimneys of his power station.

Success justifies the means

On the contrary, farmers in his region are enjoying record harvests thanks to the high concentration of CO2 in the air. Also, because the businessman understood this development, he also bought land years ago and leased it out to those farmers. In this way, he is profiting twice over – first from the electricity and then from the rich yields on the leases. His latest project offers not just high profits but also spectacular sights. „Our artificial volcano,“ he is at this moment explaining to his Supervisory Board, “will use the huge energy of the Earth’s crust.

To put it simply, we shall throw large explosive charges into volcanoes and fissures. This will produce eruptions, the heat from which we shall use for electricity production. Or something along those lines – I am not a technical expert. The rest is all in the documentation in front of you.” In three years, everything will have been put into place, and already he is looking forward to the huge clouds of smoke that will overshadow even his big- gest power stations.

Everything for the customer

He did not need to worry about much resistance from politicians. As everybody was fighting everybody else and nobody looked more than a few years ahead, he could forge new coalitions with officials, investors, and other companies for each individual project. This was also made especially easy by the fact that large corporations had ceased to exist long ago. What had developed in their place along all value chains was an extremely fragmented market of specialists. There, you could always find somebody willing to take part in a temporary network as long as a good deal was on offer. He had learned on his business trips that this was how things worked everywhere. “Consumer first“ was the motto in all the world’s capitals – and why should Wen Zhao not join in this game?

A look into the future of our energy system

Of course, the future world may look very different than it does in this story, which our futurologists developed as part of the foresight work on the topic of energy systems and greenhouse gas emissions.

As innovation manager, physicist Dr. Andreas Meschede coordinates the foresight process at thyssenkrupp. Here international experts design possible scenarios for the future, such as the development of mobility, the cities of tomorrow or the changing world of employment. The Group is already preparing today for possible developments in the next decades.

Foresight process: the goal of groundbreaking customer solutions

“With Foresight, we first arrange different images of the future in order to expand them into scenarios in a second step,” says Andreas Meschede. “In the end, we have the opportunity to find groundbreaking solutions for our customers.”

Als Koordinator des Foresight-Prozesses von thyssenkrupp entwickelt Andreas Meschede mit rund 160 Kollegen aller Geschäftsbereiche, externen Experten und Querdenkern Szenarien für das Leben, Arbeiten und Wohnen im Übermorgen. Die Themen sind vielfältig – von Megacitys und Mobilität über Landwirtschaft, Luft und Wasser bis hin zur Energie.

This also applied to the question of energy supply – a topic that is already becoming increasingly acute today in the wake of climate change and is a hot issue worldwide – well before the “Fridays for Future” movement.

Future visions with interdisciplinary expertise

However, the Foresight team does not design its scenarios as a detached group operating far away from the company. For the foresight scenarios, Andreas Meschede rather brings together the know-how from the entire thyssenkrupp cosmos: “I do provide the methodology for creating our future scenarios,” explains the innovation and foresight manager. “But the content, the expertise and the intuition are contributed by my colleagues from a wide variety of disciplines. Discussing these different perspectives gives us holistic pictures of what our future could look like – and from these derive how we at thyssenkrupp can make a positive contribution to shaping this future.

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