Thursday, February 15, 2018

Bootstrapping the Future through Energy Innovation?

I’m not a big believer in the idea that technological innovation can bootstrap individuals, communities, or entire societies out of poverty.

However, every so often I see a technology that calls into question my pessimistic frame through its promise to disrupt entrenched power relations.

Solar energy is one such technology. There is still uncertainty around the viability and sustainability of solar supply chains that rely on limited resources and/or conflict metals, but there is also great hope that solar will revolutionize energy production and ownership.

One of the most hopeful dimensions of solar energy production concerns ownership. The means for extracting and distributing solar energy are conducive to local ownership.

The big utilities – whether government or privately owned – are often not conducive to sustainable energy transformations because they seek to maintain their existing infrastructures. We’ve seen the alarming consequences of this dependence on risky twentieth century infrastructures in the nuclear energy sector.

But solar can be owned and operated by discrete individuals and small communities.

Community ownership of the means of energy production is foundational for self-determination.

I spent the first half of this week at a conference – Eradicating Poverty through Energy Innovation - sponsored by the School for the Future of Innovation in Society that explored solar’s capacity for improving economic and social well-being, while fostering community self-determination.

I learned how small-scale solar investments in the most impoverished communities could directly improve quality of life, adding social, as well as economic, value.

I learned how dispossessed rural communities – such as those in Puerto Rico (see here) whose former connections to the grid will NOT be re-connected after Maria – see solar as their salvation.

There are many supply-chain and storage issues that still need to be resolved around solar energy, but it gives me hope that we are not without promising alternatives in an era where big carbon and big nuclear are driving us into extinction.

Please see my presentation here for a more detailed development of this argument:



    Radioactive mess around moscow

  2. Many remote small towns, had their own hydropower 70 or 80 years ago. Like many cities, had perfect trolly systems. The gulpers and ayn rand, galt asses privatized every thing. Ruined that. With hydro. With ground action potential generators. Wit wind. With the new cheaper, with ultra cheap hi efficiency-chewp wolarbetter liquid batteries that dont need litium, from the lithium bat inventer at Ut, dont need the bullshit exploitative grids anymore.


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