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Forbes - The so-called energy transition – a move away from non-renewable thermal fuel sources such as oil, coal and gas towards renewables – has been gathering momentum. And the societal and industrial effects of this shift to biomass, hydro, geothermal, wind, solar and other energy sources will only multiply over the next few years.

 

Microgrids, Sharing Economies And The Remade City

Changing fuel sources and upgrading turbines are only the first steps in the energy transition process. The bulk of the impact on the way people live and work will come as we revisit the assumptions that formed in the late 19th century about how energy can best be generated and distributed for personal, commercial and industrial use.

Here are some ways life will change in the years and decades ahead:

Urbanization will further accelerate: Energy transition and the way it requires and promotes efficiency will increase the predominance of shared movable assets; think shared fleets of autonomous vehicles, for instance. These sharing economy models are more valuable when people and resources are closer together, further intensifying the movement of people into dense population centers and away from rural and exurban environments.

Cities will be remade yet again: Since energy generation will gradually shift from the capital-intensive matter of burning coal or oil, the lines between energy producers and consumers will blur. Cities will reshape themselves around people’s abilities to create neighborhood power plants or to engage in production collectives with comparatively little effort.

Industries will relocate: Just as the current power distribution regime has made it possible for industry to move away from rivers and other natural power sources, the remaking of transportation networks and energy grids will change the priorities for new plant construction. Microgrids that allow residential and commercial buildings to generate, store and sell power will disrupt the traditional straight line between centralized power plants and last-mile consumers. Utilities may shift to a management role on these smaller grids, acting as expert brokers. They will then build smaller plants and storage facilities to help meet local demand based on actual consumption and refocus large, centralized plants towards regional or international grid needs.

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