Saul Griffith is a scientist and inventor. He has built all manner of crazy machines and now he lobbies governments and big businesses as an advocate for clean energy transition. During a prolific engineering career, he has studied at MIT and led projects with NASA, DARPA and the National Science Foundation. Saul has also been awarded the MacArthur Fellowship for inventions in the service of humanity. If Saul’s CV sounds a bit intimidating, that is quickly countered by his down-to-earth pragmatism when he starts to talk about his mission: to electrify the world’s machines and rapidly wean humanity from our addiction to fossil fuels and the comforts they provide.
This is a giant task, but Saul makes the conversion feel very much within our grasp this decade. He makes the case for electrification of everything as being a necessity, not an option, if we’re to limit the planet-heating result of our fossil fuel dependence.
During our conversation, Saul illuminated the practical and policy roadblocks to making this a reality and made the argument that we must divorce ourselves from the belief that it is the fossil fuels themselves that we crave. With the stakes unthinkably high on a planet in a state of overwhelm, Saul’s solution – to start by installing solar panels on all of our rooftops and powering everything with them – seems deliciously simple. I hope it proves to be something we can achieve: first in Australia, with all its natural advantages, and then across the world.
I met Saul in Byron Bay. We were both there for the 2022 Byron Writers Festival, where he appeared on several panels to discuss his latest book, The Big Switch. We dove right into Saul’s clean energy solution that might just be our path out of climate catastrophe.