Elon Musk, the innovator behind SpaceX, Tesla Motors and SolarCity, is one of the biggest success stories of the 21st century, and continues to be one of the most polarizing people in the energy sector. Known as both an innovator and entrepreneur, big things are expected from the polymath in 2016, such as the launch of Tesla’s Model 3, the company’s most affordable vehicle to date for the mass market; the continual launch of Powerwall in various markets; and the Musk-inspired hyperloop — a high-speed transportation system that will commence testing in 2016.
As the world’s richest man, Bill Gates has the financial means and high-profile connections to make a difference in the world. The Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist and technology visionary has become the face behind the launch of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, an initiative comprised of other influential leaders — Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos — that aims to encourage and invest in carbon-neutral technologies. Gates is also behind Mission Innovation, a commitment by over 10 countries to invest more in clean energy projects.
Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, runs one of the largest and most profitable companies in the world. As a major driving force behind the “Industrial Internet,” Immelt is pushing to turn trains, jet engines and other massive machines into data-providing computers.
Under his leadership, the multinational company is developing ways to integrate equipment sensors, artificial intelligence technology and data software with their industrial equipment, which will then feed real-time data to the equipment’s owners — leading to higher efficiency and productivity. Look for the company to become the world’s premier digital industrial company, including growing business revenue significantly, in coming years.
After the unexpected death of Christophe de Margerie, Patrick Pouyanné was appointed CEO of oil and gas Supermajor, Total S.A in 2014. As a graduate of École Polytechnique and an Engineer of the French Corps des Mines, Pouyanné has held various positions in finance and the energy sector, including positions in the French Industry Ministry and Environment and Industry Technical Advisor to the Prime Minister. In recent weeks, Pouyanné has played a prominent role in the Climate Talks in Paris, uniting with other CEOs for oil and gas firms to help limit emissions.
Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, is one of the most influential people in the energy sector, presiding over an operation that generated $34 billion in net income this past year. Under his leadership, Exxon Mobil acquired XTO Energy in 2009 and more recently was able to strike oil this summer while drilling in Russia’s Artic region. Tillerson is also a major advocate of ending the decades-old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil and also supporting the lift of regulatory constraints on the building of projects to export liquefied natural gas. Forbes recently ranked Tillerson number 25 on their 2015 list of the most powerful people in the world.