An interview with energy innovator Arash Aazami

An interview with energy innovator Arash Aazami
The sun delivers 1,400 times the energy mankind needs. Harvesting just 0.06 percent of it would provide the entire world the energy to turn its attention to other problems, says Arash Aazami. Aazami is the founder of Kamangir, a think-tank designing the foundation for our future energy system.
By Sophie Knight
‘I believe that many of the grand challenges for humanity that seem to oppose or challenge each other are actually solved at a different level,’ says Arash Aazami.‘When it comes to energy, people’s general wish is: no more energy poverty. This means that the whole of humanity will eventually consume more energy than we do today. At the same time, you want to mitigate the risks of climate change, environmental impact, et cetera.‘In other words, if we would want to provide energy access to everybody with the reality of today, we would be building coal-fired plants all over the world. We would say that every human being should have the ability to set things on fire. Specifically, bits of the earth’s crust.

‘Temporarily, we would all have access to energy, but in a few years’ time we would see that it increases climate change, induces war and conflict over scarce resources, et cetera. For a few decades we would be solving energy poverty, but we would increase poverty on many other levels.’

Consume less

‘On the other hand, if our efforts today were directed towards mitigating climate change, the implication would be that all of us have to consume less energy. Which is saying, you guys in sub-Saharan Africa are doing the right thing and we in Europe and North-America are going to adapt to your way. Many of us wouldn’t be happy.

‘So, in the short term there is no way to solve the problem in either direction using the realities of today. Which means that we have to create a new reality. We have to jump into our solar-powered helicopter and climb a few miles and look down and see that all of us are fighting over scarce resources, while in the meantime, abundant resources of energy are already available to all of us. We’re just not making use of them.’

It’s all solar

‘The sun is shining, providing 1,400 amounts more energy than mankind is using today. If we could find the technology and economic and legislative models to make sure we’re capturing 0.06 percent of the sun’s energy hitting the earth at this very moment, then humanity’s needs of today would be met.

‘In essence, I’m saying something very simple: all energy — coal, oil, gas, solar, wind power, hydroelectric power, geothermal power — is a form of solar power. It’s all solar.

‘The thing we need to do, the big design question, the task ahead for our investment agendas and our R&D agendas is: cut out the middle man. The more we can utilise the power of the sun to answer our needs on a day-to-day basis, the more we have the energy to answer all the other demands and needs mankind has. Humanity could benefit enormously from natural abundance.’

This is an excerpt from an interview with Arash Aazami by Sophie Knight as part of STBYs research in preparing briefs for the WDCD Climate Action Challenge. It first appeared in the WDCD publication: Good News for the Planet – 31 Brilliant Ideas for Climate Action (available for order).