Some energy companies and politicians argue that the choice is not between renewables and fossil fuels, but a question of compromise of holistic energy mix, sometimes framed as “all of the above” strategy. Kirsten Hasberg argues that this strategy is flawed.
Picture this: You’re sitting in a meeting with people you disagree with. You’re tired, and it’s Friday afternoon. You just really want to get over with it. And since you can’t convince everybody, you’ll make this uncomfortable compromise: “Yes, we’ll take your idea, and we’ll take mine as well.” Both of you know that this is not particularly realistic, since the two options are mutually exclusive. Actually, they are substitutes to each other rather than complements. Also, you are actually competing for the same financial and time resources. Nevertheless, it makes a beautiful press release that once again, an agreement was reached. Meeting over. Phew. Same is true when talking about the energy revolution. First, we heard big energy companies say: “It’s a question of both – not either or” – this was their repeated argument, or cover-my-ass-strategy, because it includes big coal with CCS and nuclear as part of a “sustainable energy system”. So, beware when you hear the conventional wisdom of “we need all solutions”, now that you know how that board meeting must have looked where that decision was crafted…This is what a recent blogpost by John Farrell is about. And as he argues:
When talking clean energy policy, it may sound inclusive to suggest that “we can do both” big, centralized and small-scale, decentralized renewable energy development. But money for clean energy is zero-sum.
Farrel even uses my favorite words: Path dependency and “democratizing the energy system” – exactly my keywords! (I’ve written university reports on this topic, so I’ll leave path dependency and lock-in theory for a separate post…)
Farrell concludes (and I couldn’t say it any better):
…the focus on centralized generation infrastructure creates a path dependency that can limit opportunities for distributed generation development.
That’s a bad deal, especially when there are signs that smaller generation gets bigger numbers of renewable energy projects online, faster. If we care about the urgency of climate change, and desire the biggest bang for the renewable energy buck, we may have to choose a path.
This blog post was originally published on http://www.tumblr.com/blog/energydemocracy