To accelerate the transition to a sustainable energy system – locally, nationally and internationally – we need to urgently find new ways of generating, selling, using and saving energy.
The good news is that exciting alternatives and smart technologies promise a radically different future. At Forum for the Future, we want to ensure that this promise is fulfilled. That’s why we’re trying to shift the relationship between people and energy (turning individuals from passive consumers to engaged actors); helping communities become key participants in the energy system; and equipping both established and emerging players with the knowledge and ambition to identify and deliver innovative solutions.
By doing so, we’re helping to create an energy system that is truly sustainable – and which puts people first.
In the West, we’ve inherited an energy system that developed in response to the needs, priorities and opportunities of the early 20th century. Most of these drivers have long since changed, yet the centralized, fossil-fuelled infrastructure they inspired remains. Today, in light of a new set of challenges, it’s increasingly clear that this system is no longer fit-for-purpose. It’s wasteful, polluting and increasingly insecure. It’s dominated by vested interests and outdated business models; and is a source of frustration for corporate and individual customers alike.
At the same time, over a billion people worldwide lack basic access to electricity.
The time is therefore right for #theBIGshift to develop a clean, low carbon energy system that puts people first, empowering those that have thus far been left behind.
The good news is that this shift is starting to happen. New approaches – based on smart, nimble, renewable technology and supported by business and ownership models that change the relationship between energy producers and consumers – are starting to gain traction across the globe, and these offer as much potential to bring energy to those currently disenfranchised; as they do to disrupt the status quo.
To offer just a few examples: In 2013, Spain produced half of all its electricity from renewables; 70% of Danish wind turbines, and 40% of Germany’s renewables, are now community owned; and in Norway, one in 10 of all new cars sold is electric.
Meanwhile, in India, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission has set the target of deploying 20,000 MW of grid-connected, and 2,000 MW of off-grid, solar power by 2022; while some 50,000 solar home systems are being installed in Bangladesh every month.
Nevertheless, the transformation of our energy system is happening more slowly than it should. Which is why Forum for the Future is working to speed up the pace of change, and to bring innovative solutions to scale.
In the UK, we’re doing this by:
- shifting the relationship between people and energy (turning individuals from passive consumers to engaged actors);
- helping communities become key participants in the energy system;
- equipping both established and emerging players with the knowledge and ambition to identify and deliver innovative solutions;
- applying our expertise in energy, systems thinking, and sustainability more broadly – to ensure that proposed ‘solutions’ are genuinely sustainable.
For example, the Community Energy Coalition, convened by Forum for the Future, is a group of trusted and influential civic society organisations, working together to make community energy at scale a reality in the UK by 2020.
Our Farm Power project is not only exploring the role that farms could and should play in the UK’s energy system; but is building a diverse coalition – from farmers through to multinationals – to tackle the barriers to sustainable farm-based energy in innovative ways.
The Big Energy Idea will reframe the debate about energy in the UK. We aim to engage and empower households; to link concerns about increasing bills to opportunities to manage them; and to transform the market for goods and services to help households take control of their energy use.
Our key aim with all of these projects is to bring about change on the ground – and we’re now looking to apply our approach and learning internationally as well as in the UK. To do so, we need your help. Together we can deliver an energy system that is not only truly sustainable, but which puts people first.