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Session 6: Technology for the energy transition

In the final week, we explored how our use of technology can facilitate or obstruct energy democracy. What are the opportunities and challenges of new technologies such as smart grids?

Village-based solar home system training session by rural Bangeladeshi women. Credit: Flixr, ILO

This is session 6 of the Democratising Energy Peer Learning Course by Platform London and Transnational Institute.


To initiate the discussion, we asked Lorenzo Kristov, an innovative thinker at the heart of California’s energy sector to share his perspectives. He argued strongly against adopting new technologies without a clear vision of what kind of energy system he want, but also comes out in favour of a decentralised distributed model that he sees as most favourable to a democratic vision.


The webinar featured contributions from:

Carol Olson, Researcher in solar energy at the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands.  Alongside technical research, her work has increasing been involved with the social and economic aspects of the renewable versus fossil fuel energy supply system.

Julia Fernandes, Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens (Movement of People Affected by Dams) based in Brazil.

Further reading

Beyond Utility 2.0 to Energy Democracy, (Institute for Local Self-Reliance) https://ilsr.org/report-energy-democracy/ – Useful report (from a US perspective) on how technological changes can facilitate moves towards democratising our energy system.

Vaclav Smil: “The great hope for a quick and sweeping transition to renewable energy is wishful thinking” https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/the-curious-wavefunction/vaclav-smil-e2809cthe-great-hope-for-a-quick-and-sweeping-transition-to-renewable-energy-is-wishful-thinkinge2809d/ See also: Smil, Renewabel Energies: Resources, conversions and constraints (PDF) recommended by Jordan Kinder https://www.dropbox.com/s/3h2lad2rum9c3d9/Smil%20Renewable%20Energies.pdf?dl=0

Prof Da Silva, The four barriers to diffusion of solar energy technologies in Africa (Africa Policy Review) http://africapolicyreview.com/analysis/four-barriers-diffusion-solar-energy-technologies-africa-trends-kenya/

Microgrid media – a website aggregating stories on microgrids, i.e. small scale electricity grids that don’t depend on large electricity distribution networks http://microgridmedia.com

“How the Smart Grid is Key to a Sustainable Energy Future” https://www.greenbiz.com/news/2011/04/12/how-smart-grid-key-sustainable-energy-future

Do smart grids and smart meters give control to corporations? http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/from-smart-grid-to-big-brother.html

Current challenges in energy storage technologies – an overview http://reneweconomy.com.au/the-long-term-storage-challenge-batteries-not-included-73186/

A nation-sized battery – http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/ -blogpost on limitations of energy storage

Previous sessions of the Democratising Energy Peer Learning Course:

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