Energy BrainMonday and Tuesday I had the privilege to attend the first Energy Thought Summit (ETS) here in Austin. Such luminaries in energy and technology, like Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, and Jon Wellinghoff, former FERC chairman, were headliners.

On Monday morning, I took away some encouraging and fundamental insights. The first featured speaker, Badar Khan, CEO of Direct Energy, particularly highlighted customer-engaging strategies. Most people only spend about six minutes per month on their electricity bill. With so little attention given to electricity use, no wonder it doesn’t occur as something important to people. To change the utility bill game, Direct Energy now has a “pay-as-you-go” service. Customers pay at the beginning of the month for their electricity and then receive their remaining balance each day via text message. The result is people take more control of their usage daily.

Making a grand entrance on a Segway accompanied by a marching band playing the Super Mario theme, Steve Wozniak brought a great perspective on invention and innovation. In his experience with invention, a simple, inexpensive, working model sells itself to investors. Innovation he found comes and growth he found come out of an open, collaborative business environment with thoughtful rather than forceful leadership. He also believes, and shares his wealth accordingly, that when you have success you should pay it forward, so others can further innovate.

Everything else on Monday afternoon and Tuesday seemed to point toward this: 1.) The technology to tackle our energy issues already exists, and 2.) Social and organizational inertia is the barrier. Personally, I believe we can overcome the inertia. After all look at how this country mobilized and transformed our industry into a war machine practically overnight when we entered World War II. When will we all get that we’re at war for our future?