We visited great companies, saw disruptive technologies, met talented executives and had a lot of fun on this study tour. However, my main high-level takeaway does not come from any of those. Instead, I found the key to the success of what we were seeing in Europe in the Energy Academy in Samso Island.
There, in addition to the roof PV solar plant, the ventilation and heating systems, the construction materials, and the human actioned light-fan-bike (that Juanito kindly made work), I found this picture hanging on the wall of one of the secondary rooms:
I would go further than the artist, however. Academics and engineers don´t make changes happen alone. I’d add a third category to this list: entrepreneurs. Together, these groups are the driving force behind everything we have witnessed in Europe: passionate people who pursued crazy dreams and worked hard to make them real. And these people need to be recognized as heroes, because they work for a better world.
And we have the proof of this in our visits in Europe. Just look at the founder of Vestas, Peder Hansen, a visionary blacksmith, who with his creativity changed the understanding energy in Denmark. Javier Benjumea or José María Entrecanales, founder of Abengoa and Acciona respectively, both engineers, started businesses that have been pushing Spanish society toward greater sustainability. And we have heroes who continue to strive today. Take someone from other of our visits, Shai Aghassi, the founder of Better Place, who was able to raise $350M from series B investors (including the conservative HSBC) to realize his dream of increasing access to electric vehicles worldwide.
We have learned that most of the big changes in the energy space are driven by policymakers. It’s true. But they need people who think about these subjects and come with the ideas that change the world. And those are these academics, engineers and entrepreneurs.
In Europe, most of them don’t have the recognition that they deserve, but fortunately, the mentality is changing. Recognizing the merits of these people and encouraging their continued work, dedication, and creativity is the only way to make the world a better place for humankind.