The Future of Energy and the Need for Reinvention

Created: Friday, July 27, 2018, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 10:00 am

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by Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington and Helena Calle, from Fast Future

In many places summer means electrical grids working overtime to keep cooling and ventilation systems going.  In less developed parts of the world, temperatures will reach levels where people will die.  Our comfort and survival depend on our ability to continue to power the planet.  But energy resources are not equally distributed.

Many see this situation being addressed slowly over the next fifty years – too late for those without reliable energy supplies. But what if we embrace a fundamental shift in thinking? In our book, The Future Reinvented – Reimagining Life, Society, and Business, we explore alternative, surprising, and unexpected scenarios of how we might change the path to the future.  To look at the reinvented future of energy, we use these perspectives, and explore four scenarios which draw on a workshop our team designed and facilitated at the Finland Futures Research Conference in Tampere, Finland in June 2018.

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This future, taking place between 2020 and 2050, rests on the progression of organic solar cells and advances in solar panel performance; and a focus on peer to peer energy distribution systems. Cutting out the grid leads to a healthier, renewable, and optimized quality of life.  It gives regular people something of value that they can sell to meet their basic needs.

In 2020 politicians are trying to maintain the status quo and resisting the changes being enabled by solar energy. By 2030, they realize there are more energy producers than consumers. Also there is enough clean energy to last a lifetime. Sustainability becomes the norm across the planet.

By 2040, each person might be producing their own energy and sharing it with others. By 2050 there would be drastic lifestyle changes. For example: An Indonesian family with one child; the parents work from home as part of a global network doing professional jobs in a small business. Because there is abundant energy they don’t have to struggle for survival and can do what they love.

One challenge is that almost all-natural surfaces are covered in solar panels. This seems at odds with the fact that all local natural and human resources gain more and more value. Natural beauty becomes a rare sight in some places that were once revered for it.

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Networked Nomads

This scenario describes the emergence of a nomad network after an ecological crisis on earth.  It takes place before 2050.

A major climate change induced ecological and civilization crisis has struck. Rising sea levels destroyed entire cities. The populations that survived live in extreme weather conditions. Society has become nomadic and post-urban.

There is radically less energy consumed per person in this future. Society becomes a series of tribes connected by mobile devices. People have learned the lessons of the disaster, so they are collaborating through their devices and becoming a global mobile community. Energy regulation is based in the values of the nomadic tribes.

People have robotic horses to move from one place to another, living in tents with solar panels. Old unused buildings and skyscrapers become the platforms for solar panels and storage units.

Unable to practice traditional agriculture tribes have turned to marine agriculture, producing algae, grown using robots. These farms are not sufficient to support a lifetime’s food supply, so the nomads move and wait for new algae to grow in order to come back to harvest their crops.

Human Energy Source

This scenario explores a world in 2040 where social values have evolved significantly.  People of this future prioritize open access, trust, and love. The triggering event is a truly game-changing new energy technology.  A personal wearable device is invented to provide personal freedom powered by unlimited energy – capturing and transforming energy produced by the body such as motion and heat.

The reader is asked to imagine a decentralized future where the body can actually produce all the energy needed to run society?  There would likely be so much energy available that we’d have an excess.  We could perhaps transform it into technologies that provide shelter, heat, and transport.

It is also possible that future abundant energy would be applied to negative purposes.  Weapons, pollution, illness, and social control could be some of the darker ramifications of a future where the human body is an energy source.

For example, consider Frida who lives in a city in China that stores the energy of citizens. Not every city has this technology yet, so the city is prosperous.  The economy is based on producing and selling energy. Initially the technology was used to eliminate air pollution.  This was very popular.  The next stage was to develop the technology enabling the city to store personal energy. In this future, Frida has the freedom to choose what to do with her time as she is producing wealth with her own personal energy.


This scenario explores a vision of a smart Scandinavian megacity design colonizing the earth between 2020 and 2050.  Communities have efficient physical infrastructure for housing. However, there are many overlapping activities taking place in the virtual world, where the real “community” exists. Mobility has slowed since self-sufficiency of most buildings reduces the need for transport. Education and work are virtual, urban gardens produce ample food, and waste forms a key energy source.  The megacity design encapsulates the self-sufficiency ethos.

This future started with migration problems but thrived thanks to technological innovations.  Renewable energy infrastructure, the internet of things (IOT), and artificial intelligence (AI) facilitated the optimization of truly intelligent cities and a network of smart, self-sustaining communities.

For example, the Perez family joined an energy cooperative residential community in Mexico.   Adopting a collective mindset, their energy consumption became more efficient.  Everything they need is within their building:  food from vertical gardens, good neighbours, community entertainment, and strong social safety net.

These scenarios push the boundaries of what our energy future might allow: radical ideas, environmental disruption, and game changing innovations. They explore how a reinvention of our energy future might change the balance of power within societies.

Rohit Talwar
Rohit Talwar, Steve Wells, Alexandra Whittington and Helena Calle are futurists from Fast Future, a professional foresight firm specializing in delivering keynote speeches, executive education, research, and consulting on the emerging future. The latest books from Fast Future are: Beyond Genuine Stupidity – Ensuring AI Serves Humanity, and The Future Reinvented – Reimagining Life, Society, and Business.

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