The entry costs of modern renewables

Perhaps I’m being biased here because it’s something that relates to my home country, but I do think this article deserves a read:

Costa Rica soon to unveil its first hydrogen-powered bus, by Macro Sibaja on the Costa Rican newspaper ‘The Tico Times’.

Originally by the AFP, the article basically summarises a fairly important event that took place in Costa Rica this last week.  That event was the announcement by Ad Astra Rocket, a company associated with a Costa Rican scientist who used to be an astronaut for NASA, that they would be unveiling the first hydrogen-powered bus in the country. The event itself is not a surprise. Ad Astra has been working on the hydrogen project for a while already. The launching of the bus as a pilot project is, however, of symbolical significance.

Whilst the event was all over Costa Rican media and although I think I saw it go by in one or two newsfeeds, the event went relatively unnoticed because this week was extremely hectic when it comes to news of global significance.

What I do want to highlight, however, is the following contrast:

  • Big. Hydrogen is big nowadays. Companies like BMW have entire R&D departments trying to make a breakthrough in hydrogen technologies. The same can be said of many governments.
  • Small. Well, Costa Rica is tiny.

I think this contrast is significant because it shows that, to an extent, technology is available and has disseminated sufficiently as to allow for relatively small players to take part in the process of developing them further.

Do mind the fact that I use the word ‘relatively’. Ad Astra Rocket is a company with US investors associated with Franklin Chang Diaz, who used to be an astronaut for NASA and is currently the most well-known Costa Rican scientist. It is not as if I could take my 0.01$/month budget to go and research hydrogen technologies (or could I?).

But Ad Astra is also way smaller than a company like BMW.


One should pay attention to technologies where the cost of entry has lowered so substantially that even small players from considerably small countries can compete.

One should also wonder if one such thing signals a tipping point in the world of energy, or if it instead is one of many examples of a slow change that is still decades away from becoming significant. And no, of course, I got no clue about this last issue.