How do you see the Future of Energy? (Poll)

September 22 2008 / by Garry Golden
Category: Environment   Year: 2018   Rating: 3

Futurists often use scenario archetypes of world views to speak in general terms about forecasts on the future.

When most people talk about the future of energy their core set of assumptions fall into one or two major forecasts of change. These four archetype scenarios are useful in revealing the wide spectrum of assumptions about the future:

‘Green’ forecasts of the future of energy are usually oriented towards strategies that address climate change issues and advance the growth of cleantech industries. The core assumption is the emergence of an entirely new energy industry built around new low-cost renewable technologies and the rapid shift away from traditional hydrocarbons. Critics argue that these forecasts often overestimate the rate of change, the complexities of energy science and the push back from the powerful landscape of industry incumbents. But proponents believe that this ‘cleantech’ future taps the disruptive power of breakthrough science and technology, and entrepreneurial business that could re-write the rules of energy systems. ‘Green’ and Cleantech are a big memes in the future of energy!

‘Business-as-usual’ forecasts expect marketplace forces to shape the future. What does the future look like? Simply extrapolate today’s energy sector forward! They imagine the same players, relationships and attitudes towards energy to continue. These forecasts are based on compelling realities of incumbent business interests, ‘growth at any cost’ attitudes within emerging economies, and the market value of traditional hydrocarbon energy resources. Critics believe that these ‘business as usual’ forecasts often underestimate the long-term implications of disruptive change and advances in science, engineering, regulatory shifts and new business models. We believe new memes will emerge around ‘business-as-usual’ forecasts like the ‘greening of hydrocarbons’ and that the incumbents will rapidly expand the role of biology (bio energy) in carbon utilization (e.g. algae biofuels)!

Read on—‘Techno-optimist’ and ‘Overshoot & Collapse’

‘Techno-optimist’ forecasts rest on a future shaped by positive forces of accelerating change and disruptive technologies. Proponents argue that fundamental changes are just around the corner and the convergence of meta trends in science, technology and society will surprise us with new solutions that are not currently on the radar of the general public. Critics believe that these forecasts often understate short-term challenges and overstate rates of change. But proponents believe that accelerating change of new forms of distributed energy production, storage and distribution can spread quickly around the world via market forces. If we are indeed at the beginning of a new S-growth curve era these assumptions might be reflective of the changes ahead!

‘Overshoot and Collapse’ forecasts describe system level failures as societies fail to respond to the severity of imminent changes. These forecasts are usually shaped by a series of events that shock ‘business as usual’ and push the system quickly to the point of crisis. Critics believe that these forecasts underestimate our ability to enable new eras of energy systems that overcome seemingly impossible barriers of today. But proponents might not be entirely off base with their description of the maturity and peaking in performance of today’s dominant energy systems. The big question is our degree of vulnerability—can we adapt quickly enough! Some of the big memes of ‘overshoot and collapse’ forecasts are Peak Oil Production, accelerated resource depletion and electricity grid black-outs!

Yes, we all probably see part of ourselves in each category, but closer examination of our assumptions and you are much more likely to fall into one or two camps- over the others! takes all of these archetype forecasts seriously. Each contains plausible and useful elements of how to think about the decades ahead.

But if there is one dominant theme in our curated editorial content it is accelerating change matters! And that we are indeed at the dawn of a new era in thinking about energy science, technology and business models.

What do you think is the most compelling view of the future?

What do you think is the most compelling view of the future?

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Comment Thread (1 Response)

  1. I tend to aim low in my expectations. If you hope for the best, you’ll only be disappointed. If you expect something bad, you’ll be surprised by advancement. Mad Max? Nah. Children of Men? Yep.

    Posted by: John Heylin   September 23, 2008
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