The smart energy analysts over at Pike Research -- which puts out weekly reports I'd love to see but can never afford -- recently published an interesting brief, and for once it's free! It's a high-level overview of "Five Metatrends to Watch in 2013 and Beyond" in the energy sector. Metatrends! (I really wanted to call this post "Metatrends Vs. Crocosaurus." Here they are:
- Energy is becoming increasingly democratized.
- The role of government innovation funds is changing.
- Technologies are converging.
- The Southern African Power Pool is becoming the new BRIC.
- The role of utilities is changing.
Let's put aside Nos. 2 and 4, fascinating as they are.
Faithful readers know that I'm obsessed with No. 1, the democratization of energy, which refers to more and more consumers also being producers, more and more municipalities taking charge of their own energy, and thus power over power (as it were) devolving into local hands.
But what strikes me is that 1, 3, and 5 are all aspects of the same trend -- a METAmetatrend. (Take that, Pike!)
The metametatrend in energy is, for lack of a better term, decentralization. Systems that were once composed of a few big technologies and a few big companies -- along with thousands or millions of passive consumers -- are beginning to be replaced by recombinant swarms of small producers and consumers engaging in millions of peer-to-peer transactions with a wild and woolly mix of small-scale technologies.
It's going to be awesome! We have lived through a revolution like this before: the information revolution. I'm old enough to remember a time when it was vastly easier to consume information than to produce and distribute it. Even the internet started as what amounted to a large library, from which individuals downloaded info. But the spread of cheap processing power and bandwidth now means that anyone can produce information -- a song, a video, an app, a funny cat picture -- and get it in front of millions of people, instantly and virtually effortlessly, for dirt cheap.
The same kind of thing is just beginning to happen in energy. Pike is wise on this: