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Democratizing the future of energy

Friday, 12 June 2009 — by

The production and distribution of energy is about to change for ever. Why? Because in the coming years, we will be the ones producing and distributing the energy. And for those utilities companies who’ve sat at the very heart of the energy infrastructure for so long, they will struggle to survive…

The world is changing around us in ways that are mostly imperceptible. Huge change isn’t something we see a lot of, and when we do, it’s often very disruptive. The changes I’m talking about started a few years ago, when someone somewhere made a business case for the environment and sustainability. Prior to that, it was far more cost effective and cheaper to just take what was needed and to hell with what was left behind — usually very little of any use, of just the waste and cast-off of what we couldn’t make use of.

For my part, I saw the moment environmental awareness, business and energy conservation came together, in the form of a TV commercial. I’m sure most people really didn’t think too much to B&Q (a national DIY and home improvement chain) advertising solar panels. No major national retailer had committed advertising budget to that kind of of product. So this was, in many ways, a watershed moment.

Prior to this commercial going out on British TV, solar panels were prohibitively expensive, and were the domain of those living out in the wilds of some remote Scottish island or islet somewhere.

Keeping with the Celtic theme for a moment longer, more recently, Irish company Surface Power has launched what it claims is the world’s most efficient solar hot water panel:

“Certification by testing house TUV Rhineland has shown that the innovative product is up to 131% more efficient in morning and evening time and 76% more efficient at midday than other panels … Surface Power also believes its product could reduce domestic and commercial hot water bills by up to 70%.”

But this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, one that’s melting very quickly due in no small part to global warming, most probably.

Testimony to human ingenuity, alternative energy technologies abound, such as cargo ships pulled by giant kites, massive haulage air balloons, kinetic road ramps that produce electricity every time something runs over them, concept steam engines (external combustion) for automobiles, combined with regular petrol or diesel engines (internal combustion), solar “cell” technologies in the form of a paint, as well as the human body itself.

This is to say nothing of ultra efficient solar panels, underground water heating systems, waste reprocessing, mobile phones that draw energy out of thin air, or of power stations that run on manure and of transmitting solar energy from the ink black of space to the surface of the Earth.

So what does all of this amount to? There are now so many technologies that are working their way through feasibility studies, laboratories and field trials all over the world, offering ways of either reducing our energy usage, or ways of producing energy cheaply, that our dependence on the energy utility companies will demising to but a drop at the pump and a solitary Watt through the wires.

I say energy and not electricity specifically, because I’m talking about a fuels too, such as bio-diesels, hydrogen, ethanol et cetera. So not only am I talking about the company that you buy your electricity from, but also the company you get your petrol or diesel from. To be more ruthless with my words, and to pour scorn on the idea of an energy crisis:

“Because we’re now looking at different, renewable and highly fault-tolerant, often isolated methods of “off grid” energy production, the cabals and cartels running the energy empires of today will enjoy only short-term prosperity in the near future.

Over the long-term, energy production will become dirt cheap and abundant. So abundant that, if my theory is correct, controlling any energy source will be almost pointless, since no one energy source will ever be more significant — either technologically or economically — than any other.”

In the short-term, as the myriad novel energy conservation and production technologies come on-line one by one, the utilities will start to hike their prices up. But over the long-term, they’re not going to be able to compete and people will, by then, be aware of the alternatives.

So all the efforts of the utilities to gouge the populous for what little energy we do use will only hasten our mass exodus towards alternative energy sources.

Our homes will be so energy efficient, we will produce a surplus.

In this new, open energy economy that’s presently gathering momentum, we become the producers of an array of energies, silently supplying each other with power, well away from the measured, duty-charged and heavily taxed gaze of both the government and utilities…

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David Bradley → Wednesday, 17 June 2009 @ 17:47 BDT

I hope you’re right. But, I think it’s going to take a lot more than B&Q offering “cheaper” solar panels. I’ve just blogged a longer response on reactivereports.com with a trackback link.

Jim → Friday, 26 June 2009 @ 2:35 BDT

“Testimony to human ingenuity, alternative energy technologies abound, such as cargo ships pulled by giant kites, massive haulage air balloons, kinetic road ramps that produce electricity every time something runs over them, concept steam engines (external combustion) for automobiles, combined with regular petrol or diesel engines (internal combustion), solar ‘cell’ technologies in the form of a paint, as well as the human body itself.”

Are these alternative energy technologies possible in the near future?

“Over the long-term, energy production will become dirt cheap and abundant”

Sounds like a Utopian dream.

Your blog is cool. I like those ideas of alternative energy technologies you mentioned, sounds funny but really ingenious. But it sounds like dreaming about moon travel in the 18th century. I think there’s still a very long way to make the superb technologies you mentioned a reality. Regarding what you’ve said on energy becoming “dirt cheap,” I think it will never happen. Do you think it’s possible that capitalists would give way to these alternative technologies if they couldn’t lay their hands on the future’s energy production?

David Bradley → Saturday, 27 June 2009 @ 10:34 BDT

I believe Sainsburys in Solihull has one of those kinetic ramps in their carpark, it’s piezoelectric technology, and produces enough electricity to power the LCD display on one cash register…

Nommo → Monday, 29 June 2009 @ 11:19 BDT

Yeah – I think ‘me-tricity’ could be a possibility in the future… I wouldn’t like to predict when supply outstrips demand though.

Currently (pun intended) very few people can easily generate enough off-grid electricity to be self-sufficient in a ‘normal’ lifestyle (fridge/freezer, big tv, fan heater, electric can opener etc)…

I look forward to the inevitable innovations that make it possible though.

Simon Wilby → Friday, 3 July 2009 @ 7:15 BDT

Its just a matter of supply and demand statistics.

Kevin → Friday, 4 December 2009 @ 3:50 BDT

Hi, I wished you were right, Then a professor schooled me to this:

“We need renewable energy but autonomy is not possible. We’re all in this together, and we’re all going to have to figure out a way to share, hopefully without terrible disparities in wealth.”

Brent → Sunday, 6 December 2009 @ 22:12 BDT

I think it makes perfect sense for businesses to make these decisions themselves for the purpose of saving money. I don’t think it makes sense for the government to impose new taxes to combat “climate change” when it has recently become clear the scientists claiming global warming exists have a clear profit interest and have been manipulating the data.

Sorry Comments are close. Quite possibly for a good reason. Share your thoughts on some of my other posts or contact me directly.

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