February 14, 2017
**NOTE: I wrote this blog before class on Thursday so I added a paragraph at the end detailing how OSD might help mitigate some of the energy I use at home.
Oftentimes, when a sustainable energy technology is still in development, the benefits of IP outweigh the benefits of OSD for companies and entrepreneurs developing the technology (OpenSource). In this case, I will say that technology is in a stage of development if the technology is not yet common and lacks significant market demand. First, the benefits of IP outweigh the benefits of OSD because the cost to develop the technology and market it to potential users is incredibly high in the energy sector. For example, one can imagine the large amount of capital necessary to develop technology like a wave power station. Although the government can subsidize these efforts, entrepreneurs cannot count on government funding when many politicians in the government deny the existence of climate change (WIPO). In addition, the benefits of IP outweigh the benefits of OSD because, as the market for a developing technology expands, companies and entrepreneurs must patent their ideas in order to carve out a revenue-producing sector of the new industry for themselves. The high cost and financial risk of investing in these technologies in the first place makes the ability to generate revenue later on even more important. However, there are several ways in which OSD can be used to push the sustainable energy industry forward and ensure that we move towards sustainable energy solutions as quickly as possible.
Wave Power Station:
Photo Address: http://lifeboat.com/blog.images/kinetic-wave-power-station.jpg
First, sustainable energy companies can use OSD to help push larger companies towards more sustainable solutions. For example, many large car companies would not consider directing their resources towards the research and development of electric cars for two reasons. First, those companies do not have any experience in the electric car industry and they would have to start the research from scratch. Second, the financial risk involved in pursuing that research and development would be too high if there is not a significant, demonstrable demand for electric cars. Tesla overcame both of these concerns when they allied with Toyota to collaborate on electric vehicles and production systems and provide engineering support (Karamitsios 20). Through this partnership, Tesla gained Toyota’s experienced production and engineering expertise on the Model S (Karamitsios 20). However, Tesla also helped Toyota develop an electric powertrain for the RaV4 and the demand for Tesla’s electric cars gave Toyota more confidence that the electric RaV4 would be a good investment(Karamitsios 20). This is an excellent example of a time with OSD alliances can be used by small, sustainable energy companies to push larger companies towards sustainable energy solutions.
In addition, OSD can be used to encourage the development of sustainable energy infrastructure without existing market demand. Once again, Tesla is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Electric vehicles require charging stations that are both accessible to users all over the country and require very little time to charge. Tesla knew that with the growing demand for electric cars, the need for infrastructure and the cars themselves would far exceed the number of cars/infrastructure Tesla would be able to produce. Therefore, Tesla is actively working to engage other companies in the production of electric cars and electric vehicle infrastructure (Silly-Investors). In doing this, they will ensure that users can easily use their cars all over the country (Silly-Investors). In addition, the participation of other companies will cause the electric car market grow, which will allow Tesla to take a larger portion of that market than they could have operating entirely on their own (Silly-Investors).
There are several smaller ways that OSD can be used as well. First, OSD can be used to build off of the technology developed under IP but then disregarded for various reasons. Those in the OSD community can take these discarded ideas and potentially turn them into sustainable solutions (OpenSource). Second, OSD can be used to connect developers of sustainable energy solutions and investors. For example, the mission of peswiki.com is to better facilitate communication between those people developing sustainable energy solutions and those looking to enhance or invest in those solutions (PesWiki). Lastly, OSD can spur sustainable energy innovation when the groundwork for the technology does not exist in a given country. Prior to the energy crisis of 1973, Denmark entrepreneurs and companies had no experience with or interest in wind energy solutions (Wind Power). The majority of the wind energy development was occurring in the US (Wind Power). However, the oil crisis pushed Denmark into developing wind energy solutions and the use of OSD allowed developers to build the most advanced wind energy solutions and solve the energy crisis (Wind Power).
Personally, I think that OSD could help mitigate some of the energy I use at home as well. The largest benefit I see in OSD is the possibility of investing in solar panels at home. I am from Dallas, Texas. The sun shines almost all the time and my family would be more than happy to install solar panels. In looking online, there are many short videos and “how to” articles for solar panel installation, but none seem to meet the level of detailed instruction required by OSD. In addition, most of the information is spread out and confusing for someone unfamiliar with solar panel technology. OSD could help by compiling this information and giving detailed instructions on solar panel installation in a central location. Second, some of the same OSD benefits I outlined above would also help at my home. For example, if Tesla were successful in pushing more electric car infrastructure and more companies began manufacturing low-cost electric vehicles, my family would feel more comfortable investing in an electric car. Lastly, I see how OSD could benefit UVA. Most patents are actually filed by universities and research institutions (WIPO Global Challenges). However, the public supports these institutions and researchers would continue to do their research even without a large pay incentive. Therefore, I think if UVA switched to an OSD platform and allowed the research of professors and students to be open rather than patented, UVA would be doing a large service to the community that supports it.