Two years ago, when we walked into a pub in Old Street to chat with Forum for the Future about creating a virtual power station, we had no idea we’d end up convening a project to challenge the fundamentals of how our energy system works – called the Living Grid.
Our early conversations were all about reducing our reliance on fossil fuelled generators, and proving the potential of demand-side management to revolutionise our energy grid. But it turns out, when you mix inspiring conversations with businesses, universities, government bodies, local authorities, community groups, start-up technology providers, industry associations and everyone in between with a standing-room-only presentation from Michael Pawlyn, you end up with an initiative that questions every aspect of how our energy system is designed.
Why limit the conversation to the role of sophisticated, demand-side technologies. If our goal is an energy system powered by renewable energy rather than fossil fuels, we must look at the capabilities, interactions and design of every aspect of the system and question whether it has to be this way, or whether there is a better, alternative approach – and we must unleash our imaginations to do it. The Living Grid has become a community of people and organisations who are deliberately challenging the beliefs we hold about our energy future, to open up solutions to us that are simply not possible using the same thinking that created our fossil-fuel powered grid.
“The system of nature, of which man is a part, tends to be self-balancing, self-adjusting, self-cleansing. Not so with technology.” E.F. Schumacher
The Living Grid is provoking us to look beyond carbon reductions at the mismatch between our human energy system and the wider, living energy system that’s evolved here over the last 3.8 billion years of life. Rather than cycle solar energy through a closed-loop, cooperative system – as other life forms do around here – our linear, centralised grid releases energy into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, wasting it rather than recapturing it. ‘What it would take to make our alien energy system part and parcel of nature again?
As founding technology partner, Open Energi is proud to have helped bring the Living Grid into existence with our customers Aggregate Industries, Sainsbury’s, Tarmac and United Utilities. As the Living Grid grows, we’re pleased that other organisations who share its vision, such as Smartest Energy, are getting involved to usher-in the next stage of development. This next next phase is starting with a global, online conversation to reimagine our legacy grid. Are you curious about how nature would design our energy system? Join the debate here.
The Living Grid is a project convened by Forum for the Future. To find out more about the Living Grid and how you could get involved please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com