It is difficult to add much to what has already been written about Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, who passed away on October 5. There is no question but that history will remember him as one of the great titans of American industry, on par with Edison, Rockefeller and Ford.
For those engaged in the emerging advanced energy storage industry, however, it is important to remember not just who Steve Jobs was but what made him what he was. Steve Jobs was not a brilliant scientist or a great engineer. His genius lay in designing products that people wanted to buy and, more importantly, in explaining to people why they wanted to buy them. It is important to remember that in the late 1970’s when Apple got its start, most consumers were as unaware of the potential benefits of computers to their lives as most consumers are today unaware of the potential benefits of energy storage.
By some estimates, the advanced energy storage industry in the United States today is in crisis. Stock prices are down, order books are thin and pessimistic analyst reports seem to be published weekly. The crisis in energy storage, however, is not one of technology or manufacturing or investment. The crisis in advanced energy storage is one of demand.
Until mass market consumers decide that they want advanced energy storage technology in their lives–in the form of electric vehicles and grid-connected storage systems–the advanced energy storage industry will struggle. Energy storage is ultimately a consumer-driven market, either on account of direct consumer purchases (in the case of electric vehicles) or on account of the purchase of storage systems by regulated utilities (which must be approved by regulators that ultimately answer to consumers).
The advanced energy storage industry must focus on making the case for its technology. Technology geeks and policy wonks will never make a market for our products. We must take the case for energy storage to the consumer. That is what Steve Jobs would do.
Editor: Interested in storage? We have an energy storage theme webinar coming in November!