A few weeks ago I was interviewed by The Big Issue, a UK publication that is mostly sold by the homeless and long-term unemployed.
As noted on their Web site, “Since The Big Issue was launched in 1991 we have helped thousands of vulnerable people take control of their lives. We currently work with around 2000 individuals across the UK offering them the opportunity to earn a legitimate income; to ‘help them to help themselves’. We currently circulates around 100,000 copies every week.”
There’s a really good audio program — “The Energy Transition Show” — which will help you explore the ideas below in greater depth!
Futurist Jim Carroll says renewable energy will soon allow people to beat the Big Six by creating microgrids with their neighbours.
Renewable energy projects have taken a beating in recent years – there was a lot of misspending in the early days, and production costs were too high. But we are getting much more intelligent about renewable energy and making it really efficient. I think we’re approaching a time that the cost of developing new, exciting alternative energy sources is going to rapidly decrease.
The individual is capable of playing a much bigger role here. Whether it’s wind generation, solar cells or bio-composting, the internet is allowing people to raise funds, share ideas and invent new energy technologies faster than ever before.
Traditional energy is all one-way: a big power plant that sends out energy to everyone on the grid. But the possibilities of creating a two-way system, where we can accept inputs from a large number of small-scale energy generators, is an incredibly exciting prospect.
The time is coming when more and more people will find they are capable of getting off the traditional grid. Or maybe connecting to the grid on only a part-time basis.
If you can connect a smart home energy thermostat with some solar, wind or biomass energy in your garden, you’re really not far off generating your own power. Soon people will be able to create local microgrids with their neighbours.
The big companies will have to become more flexible to adjust. Big data will enable the power sector to add far more intelligence to the grid, and make it a truly two-way, interactive system.
We’ve shared music – why can’t we share energy? The music industry thought it would be selling CDs forever but the model changed when people started sharing.
Long term, I’m optimistic we’ll be able to move away from carbon. We’re at a key inflection point. Right now, we’re roughly 90 per cent carbon, 10 per cent renewables. But I can imagine being at 50-50 in my lifetime. The next generation will look at renewables and say: “Wow – this just makes sense.”
Jim Carroll was talking to Adam Forrest