The Coming Decentralization of the Utility Sector

Bloom Energy Fuel Cell Courtesy Bloom Energy

Bloom Energy Fuel Cell
Courtesy Bloom Energy

Several trend waves are heading for a thunderous collision and are going to change the course of the utility sector. When billions of dollars were poured into energy “cleanies” and “greenies”, few thought about the third order ramifications and potential by-products. But, alternative energy is just that. It means we don’t need the same old companies providing the same old things that they’ve provided for the last 50 years. In fact the alternatives are starting to line up nicely. Like the telecommunications infrastructure that has rapidly gone from big infrastructure to mobile wireless due to rapid advancements in battery power, bandwidth, and miniaturization, so goes the utility sector. The three big waves that are about to hit are miniaturization and efficiencies through nanotechnologies, improvements in battery power and storage systems; and improved human economization of energy. [Read more…]

The Next Decade: Chicken Soup, Peanut Butter, and Prozac

PBJ and ProzacPBJ and ProzacThe financial crisis of 2009 didn’t just change the last few years, but also the next decade — how we live, how we work, how long we work, and how we perceive the future.

And most people are not seeing the future very positively right now, other than the occasional uptick in housing and a few other bright spots out there.  Everything hurts and we want to be comforted. The doldrums might last longer than people think. So, while it’s not pretty, I think we’ll all be sulking looking for tiny little comforts that make us feel better. At least the next five years should see an uptick in the sale of comfort foods, anti-depressants, alcohol, and, of course, movies and entertainment to round out the escapism. People will be tight fisted in their spending habits unless they can justify that spending a few dollars makes them feel better even if it’s only for a short time. So, to pump up those coffee shop sales, how about getting some Kava tea on the menu?

So if the next decade remains a little frosty, what will people be spending their hard earned cash on?  People don’t give up cheap entertainment easily. It makes them feel better. So cable and satellite TV companies should do well if they figure out how to price and package their products. Hollywood seems short on memory when it comes to uplifting movies. But, this will be a decade where uplifting movies will do well if they’re put into play.

This is also not going to be a good decade for the “great smoke out” where the American Cancer Association encourages people to kick the habit. Giving up cigarettes just got a little harder. In fact, I expect tobacco sales to rise even further and possibly pick up a new following. Designer beers and wines are out and cheap imitators are in. This will be the decade for the “substitute” products. So you wanted the Mercedes, get the Chrysler 300 instead if Chrysler manages to survive. You wanted Prada? Don’t worry, the fact that you bought used on E-Bay is our little secret (and it’s also the secret of the woman you just admired coming out of SAKs).

Things That Should Do Well

Things that we expect to do well besides, soup, cigarettes, peanut butter, and Prozac.

What’s In:

Cigarettes, Comfort Food,  Alcoholic beverages,  Mood Drugs,  Cheap Gyms,  Used books and movies,  Generic brands,  Used everything

What’s Out:

Steak and Lobster,  Super mansions, Wines above a 92 Wines Spectator Rating,  Luxury SUVs

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It’s Downtown or the X-urbs

Houston, Texas, skyline.

Downtown or X-urbs?

A Nation on the Move?  And what’s causing this trend? Gen-Xers, and Gen-Yers want to raise their family in quality of life locations, while baby boomers are trying to locate another nest and retire early. While downtown, in cities across America, people are living closer to work, often deciding not to own a car at all.

Suburbia Moves Closer to the City

Downtown areas are being revitalized at record rates as condos, apartments, mini-grocery stores, and car rental companies cater to the city dweller.

Cities to Watch: Houston, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Chicago

So what will downtowners need? Better shopping, more variety in grocery stores, urban, organic landscaping, kid-friendly developments, community-oriented housing, more convenient rental car locations, and healthier food choices. What is driving the back to the city trend? Incentives for fuel and emissions savings, suburban congestion, the commoditization of suburbia, and new opportunities created by the decline in housing and property prices.

Telecommuters Take Commuting to the Next Level

As rural dwellers, we can’t help but be fascinated by the exodus of America’s knowledge workers and professionals to more rural destinations. Pollsters and journalists seem to miss the mark when they try to point their finger at how, for example, states in the West are shifting demographically and politically. Well folks, people are homesteading again – very well, not the kind that happened at the turn of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, but this time it is tech-homesteading. The acceptability of web conferencing, text messaging, and technology that, while reducing physical/personal human contact increases virtual and qualitative human contact, has freed up individuals to telecommute and perform their work functions from “virtually” anywhere.

During the last decade, this was a gradual progression as organizations allowed telecommuting and small businesses and consultants began mo

This is particularly appealing to Generation Xers and Yers who are more focused on quality of life than their parents. A major contributor to this trend has been the massive investment in telecommunications infrastructure, which is essential to the telecommuter. Rural telephone cooperatives, satellite providers, and local phone and cable companies have made broadband both real and affordable. Don’t forget overnight mail. Internet shopping has changed the world. Being able to get the same goods and services delivered to your door in Fessenden, North Dakota is a necessity. What will the next decade hold for these new rural settlers? Be prepared for more changes in local political structures, at least some small town urbanization as commuters, in getting away from the city, seem to bring some of the city with them.

These new settlers tend to be between 25 and 48, well educated, and more socially and environmentally conscious. Over the next decade, what will these urban transplants need? More small business and home office technology tools, better grocery stores and pharmacies, pet care, healthcare, social organizations and networking to keep them from getting bored. Other needs might include better convertible options for home and home office combinations that deliver voice, data, video, for work and entertainment. Additionally, some smart state and local governments might be able to think up a few tax incentives to lure these telecommuters to their areas. Join TrendsDigest in February 2009 to help us select the top new homesteading communities for telecommuters. – TD


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