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For most |nhab|tants of the deve|oped wor|d, energy has not been a prob|em dur|ng the|r
||fet|mes. It |s a techno|ogy so successfu| |t has become |nv|s|b|e: the most s|gn|ñcant,
and most s||ent, enab|er of a modern way of ||fe. But a|| that |s chang|ng. Over the next
10-15 years, our re|at|onsh|p to energy w||| enter a new phase, framed by the stark rea||ty
of carbon em|ss|on-dr|ven c||mate change and r|s|ng energy demand around the g|obe.
Our creat|ve responses to th|s unprecedented d||emma w||| make energy a top doma|n
of techn|ca|, bus|ness, and soc|a| |nnovat|on. Whether we ||ke |t-or are ready for |t-an
emerg|ng "energopo||t|cs" w||| reshape everyth|ng from what we consume, how we ||ve,
why we work, and, u|t|mate|y, the cond|t|on of our p|anet.
This map is an invitation to explore four corners of possibility for the future of energy. lt is a tool
to make connections across the broad array of action domains where control over our resources
will play out. lt's a chance to think about the alternatives, to compare and contrast scenarios
that provoke us into thinking in new ways, to ask better questions, and engage in important
conversations with our teams, our stakeholders, and our communities. ln the diffcult feld of
energy futures, where data and projection models often clash and expertise runs deep and narrow,
this map is a way to frame new actions.
Will we continue on a growth path, experiencing the rise of a new network of energy and lT-related
innovation? Or will we constrain our policies and practices toward sharing the load? Will we
transform our lives through energy abundance? Or collapse into the end of empire of large-scale,
centralized and reliable energy provision? These are four strikingly different visions of what our
lives could look like in 2025. But in reality, we will experience, and already are experiencing today,
some combination of all four of these scenarios.
Take a tour of the energy landscape-in-the-making. Engage with forecasts in each of the six
action domains-infrastructure, governance, quality of life, resources, environment, and economy.
Grapple with the big questions at the heart of these domains. lmagine your day in one of the future
scenarios. And then take your next step-it may be the frst step toward building new strategies
for shaping a future in which we all thrive.
GR OWT H
a r i si ng t i de
lt's a boom time in the energy sector, and the market is full of major players. Renewable energy
sources and fossil fuels occupy signifcant percentages of the market, and are highly proftable.
Analysts estimate that global peak use was reached in 2024. So now the energy market is a battle
to gain share, not to grow new usage. Cost parity for renewables is within sight, signalling a major
tipping point that will shift the energy market in the favor of renewables. Massive investment in new
energy sources and an extensive smart grid created millions of °green" jobs. Advocates of fossil fuels
say the rise of wind and wave power is disrupting Earth's supply of free energy, and is the cause
of more climate disruption than carbon emissions. But the science remains unclear on that point.
No one would dare call energy cheap anymore, but it is relatively plentiful and reliable for people in
industrialized nations, and it is certainly proftable for the large companies who still dominate the
Private and public investment in the energy infrastructure, in both new sources of energy and in the
smart grids and energy sensors, has led to a large and extensive energy infrastructure. lt relies on
much of the 20th century grid system, but is well integrated with smart grid technologies.
QUALI TY OF LI FE
Energy is generally reliable and abundant, but it is more expensive than a generation ago. Personal
security and privacy issues continue to be a concern, as cyber attack vulnerabilities have been
exposed in smart grid networks. Weather disruptions due to climate change are increasingly
common, however, causing direct destruction and frequently disrupting power service.
The reduction of fossil fuels has slowed the growth of carbon emissions, but with no signifcant
carbon reduction policies in the U.S. or China, temperature averages continue to rise. Mitigation
strategies are giving way to adaptation techniques, as people are learning to cope with climate
changes. Success with geoengineering projects is emboldening those who wish to implement
radical approaches to curbing global warming.
C OL L A PS E
The magic technological breakthrough never came, alternative energies couldn't scale in time, and
rising costs shrank demand and profts. Anyone who still had something left got out of the energy
game as fast as they could. The U.S. government, crippled by debt, spent the last decade cutting
investment in energy R&D, maintaining vital power grid infrastructures instead. lt was too little, too
late when the world tried to salvage what was once a reliable energy system. Economic woes and
climate disruption worsened, as the United States and the world were thrown into near chaos. But
out of this collapse, a new energy future is emerging. Communities in the United States, left in the
unusual position of a °leapfrog" nation, have adopted new technologies developed in China and lndia
to produce enough energy to meet their needs. Services that help prepare and recover from disasters
and local microgrids have become the most lucrative nodes in the emerging °regenerative economy."
An ineffectual federal government has left a leadership vacuum in the United States. Many states
have tried to fll it, but local and community organizations, linked through digital sharing and
knowledge networks, have begun a grassroots recovery movement to distribute energy.
QUALI TY OF LI FE
Life is much less stable and more precarious for most people. Meeting basic needs is diffcult,
economic disruptions make a steady career or income rare. But communities are coming together
in productive ways, creating solutions to problems together, and re-building new systems on the
ruins of the old ones.
The collapse of the last decade has done wonders for the reduction of global carbon emission.
ln 2025, carbon emissions are well below 1990 levels, providing a glimmer of hope that the worst
predictions for global climate catastrophe will be avoided. Thermal inertia is still making the planet
warmer, but there are signs that this warming is slowing down global climate catastrophe will
f our vi si ons of ener gy f ut ures
C ONS T R A I NT
shar i ng t he l oad
Oil spills, nuclear meltdowns, massive profts for energy companies, and accelerating climate
change converged to create the political will necessary for more direct government control over
the energy industry. The U.S. government didn't wait for renewables to replace fossil fuels and
nuclear power; instead it implemented a series of mandatory effciency efforts to force demand to
respond to the supplies available, as opposed to the other way around. Smart meters and sensors
allow regulators to set thermostat controls for households at the regional level, maximizing energy
effciency and allowing these regions to share the load of energy shortages and costs. While energy
is not the ubiquitous resource it once was, if managed properly, there is enough for everyone to
meet their needs, without destroying the environment or leading to energy wars.
Growth and innovation in the energy industry have been radically reduced. True-cost energy
accounting made fossil fuels prohibitively expensive. Effciency technologies, conservation
applications, and maintenance services are where most investment and opportunities lie. Microgrid
and local energy sharing technologies, built on renewable energy sources, also look promising. And
many are investing in ways to re-purpose parts of the energy infrastructure.
QUALI TY OF LI FE
There is a broad sense that the forced constraints implemented by the government are necessary,
and much better than the alternatives. By 2025, it seemed that everyone in the country had been
touched in some way by a disaster directly or indirectly caused by the way we used energy.
Something had to be done, and while many lament the reduction in freedom of movement and
controls on household energy use, communities are closer and stronger than ever.
T R ANS F OR MAT I ON
a new dawn
There was never any energy shortage on Earth, only a shortage in the energy humans were able to
harness and utilize. Tapping in to this abundance would mean the transformation of human society
and mark a civilizational shift. Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev created a scale for civilizational
advancement, based on the amount of energy available for use. Humans haven't even reached
type-1-the ability to harness all the energy on Earth. But recent technological breakthroughs and
resource commitments around the world have moved humans closer to a type-1 civilization faster
than anyone thought possible. Advances in solar power, improvements in solar effciency, and
space-based solar arrays, have begun to use that giant nuclear reactor, the Sun, more effectively
than ever before. lf the pace of technological advancement continues, some think we'll reach the
174 petawatt mark by 2033.
lnternational cooperation and resource allocation for solving the energy crisis drove a shift in
governmental priorities. The United States was slow to move, but energy disruptions and weather
disasters fnally created the political will to change national policy. Mixing private incentives with
direct public funding made major technological breakthroughs a weekly occurrence by the end of
Just as the lnternet created a new set of unexpected companies, the energy sector became the
most important market force in the world. Many companies were frustrated as technology and
design patents they had developed were put under compulsory licensing schemes, but the money
and pace of innovation kept everyone with a good idea in business.
QUALI TY OF LI FE
Change can be hard to deal with, and the amount and pace of change at a global scale certainly
caused no shortage of future shock. Most centenarians likened it to when they were kids during
World War ll and every change in society felt connected to the global drama taking place. Many
wanted things to slow down, and some criticized that old ways of life were being pushed aside.
However, when cheaper transportation and affordable commodities become the norm, most were
willing to enjoy the ride into the future.
si x act i on domai ns
critical components of a successful energy future
R E S O U R C E S
Pract|ca| fue| ce||s
Basic storage and weight limitations are renewing
interest in an old dream: automotive fuel cell
technologies. While prototype hydrogen fuel cell hybrid
vehicles are on the road today, they have not proven
effcient enough to move into full-scale production.
But a new generation of prototype fuel cell °servers,"
using fossil fuels, are now being deployed to power
individual buildings. This is the frst large-scale fuel cell
project intended as a money-making venture, rather
than as a proof of concept.
While heat energy is often used as a direct energy
source, many other energy generation approaches
accumulate excess heat. With photovoltaic panels,
for example, not only is this heat generally wasted,
it can often make energy production less effcient.
Researchers at Stanford have fipped the problem on
its head, prototyping a Pv solar power system capable
of generating electricity from both light and heat
energy. Meanwhile, engineers at General Motors are
working on a system that would use waste engine heat
to contract a belt of stretched shape-memory alloy that
°remembers" its shape and generates electricity.
So|ar Moore's Law
Moore's law, which predicts that the amount of
computing power available per dollar doubles about
every 18 months, has defned lT development for the
last several decades. Some scientists now believe that
a parallel development pattern exists in solar energy-
another silicon-based technology. Historically, the
total energy output from photovoltaic technologies has
doubled about every two years. lf the trend continues
to hold, solar power could replace nearly all other grid
energy sources within just a couple of decades.
The 2011 nuclear crisis at Japan's Fukushima plant has
raised safety concerns internationally. Next-generation
nuclear plant designs address many of the issues,
but at additional cost. lndeed, the real Achilles heel
of nuclear energy may be economic. While the cost
per unit of other energy technologies has gone down
with time, the price of nuclear power continues to
increase. As Stanford-based energy analyst Tony Seba
has pointed out, the most expensive mainstream grid
technology, when all external factors are taken into
account, is not solar or wind, but is nuclear energy.
Garbage |n, energy out
Spurred by incentives, biofuels have demonstrated
signifcant potential in recent years. But fundamental
issues remain. Plant-based biofuels, for example, have
become controversial as they compete with land for
food production and new technologies for producing
biofuel from algae have had a diffcult time scaling
to industrial production. However, a promising new
technology is now being deployed to produce biofuel
from a remarkably abundant resource-household
garbage. Using this approach, the city of Edmonton,
Canada expects to be able to divert 90% of landfll
waste for energy production by 2013.
I N F R A S T R U C T U R E
ln the United States, the building sector accounts
for almost 40% of primary energy consumption.
Architectural visionaries are now pursuing °zero-energy
architecture," or ZeroNet. Think of buildings that
generate as much energy as they consume. ZeroNet
structures seek to implement extremely effcient HvAC
and lighting, while harvesting solar and wind energy.
Entrepreneurs and governments are experimenting
with micro-grids: independent °islands" of distributed
energy generation and storage. Micro-grids use a wide
variety of energy sources, often renewable, and can be
built as modules that operate autonomously or connect
to a larger system. Much of the innovation here will
come from the electrifcation of Asia and Africa, where
rural populations have huge latent demand for basics
like light and heating.
ln the U.S., petroleum provides 94% of all energy
used in transportation. ln the next 10-15 years, feet
vehicles will move from petroleum to lower-carbon
emitting electricity. Electrifcation will require new
data interoperability across the energy infrastructure.
vehicles will be able to both draw and supply power
when connected to the grid, allowing for greater
control over the fow of electricity and providing a
mobile reserve power capacity.
Wireless power transmission technologies may free
some energy systems from the limitations of heavy
infrastructure. Simple devices such as calculators,
sensors, and clocks can already be powered by
ambient radio waves. At larger scales, plans for the
deployment of space-based solar platforms that can
transmit energy via microwaves to an Earth-bound
receiving station are being considered. As with mobile
communications, the possibility of deploying traditional
network technologies without the need to create as
much underlying infrastructure could be particularly
benefcial in developing regions.
Energy |n the c|oud
Digital infrastructure will become increasingly important
in our energy future. lnternet Protocol version 6 (lPv6j
will provide billions of new web addresses, enabling
the connection of everything from buildings to
refrigerators. Cloud-served analytics will be critical to
the effcient management of distributed and small-
scale energy generation. This data protocol will form
the information backbone of the smart grid. However,
it could also make energy data and performance
vulnerable to Stuxnet-like attacks on specifc hardware
and software confgurations.
Apps for energy
The smart grid consists of a physical infrastructure, as
well as an applications layer (the technical, scientifc,
design, and data management services built on top
of the physical infrastructurej. As with the mobile
wireless lnternet, an applications layer is likely to
drive innovation in the smart grid, leading to new
consumer products and tools for improving energy
effciency and productivity.
Energy futures are d|fñcu|t to forecast due to the number of var|ab|es |n p|ay and the
|oc| of respons|b|||ty spread across nat|ona|, |oca|, and |nd|v|dua| |eve|s. Energy ||es
at the nexus of econom|c systems w|th perverse |ncent|ves that don't capture the fu||
cost of generat|on and d|str|but|on, and |s t|ght|y wound up |n government regu|at|on
because |t's so cruc|a| to our econom|c we||-be|ng. Sc|ent|ñc and techno|og|ca|
advances are deve|op|ng rap|d|y. We are strugg||ng to track, much |ess understand,
the mass|ve env|ronmenta| |mp||cat|ons of c||mate change. And the |nv|s|b|||ty of energy
|n da||y ||fe means that behav|or change, just as |t |s for human hea|th, |s very hard to
Over the next 10-15 years we will have to respond to what we cannot avoid: growing climate
volatility, pressures on water and food, a sharp increase in demand for fuels to power
economic development in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. How will you position yourself in
The six action domains we describe here are different aspects of the energy futures
landscape. Not all of the domains will be in the sweet spot for you-but none should be
ignored. ln fact, it may be those less familiar areas that provide the most food for new
strategic direction. Take some time to discover some facts you may not have known.
ldentify the challenges for you, embedded in each of the six domains. Use these as guiding
provocations to your scenario work.
I N F R A S T R U C T U R E
Looks at the reshaping of our built and digital landscapes, as energy generation and
transmission get embedded in our environment in new ways.
R E S O U R C E S
Explores developments from the vast world of generation and new fuels, from turning excess
heat into electricity, to what many are calling Solar Moore's Law.
E C O N O M Y
Focuses on new ways to value energy, where old understandings of both supply and demand
are being up-ended.
Q U A L I T Y O F L I F E
Probes changes in the way we consume and relate to energy in our daily lives.
E N V I R O N M E N T
Examines the unintended impacts of shifting energy strategies on our natural world.
G O V E R N A N C E
Delves into the new balance of power that will come as we rethink energy responsibilities at
national, regional, local, and even individual scales.
G O V E R N A N C E
The United States' clean energy fnance and
investments lag behind many of its G-20 partners.
Political gridlock and resistance from powerful
business groups will likely inhibit national efforts at
carbon emissions reductions and clean technology
over the next ten years in the U.S. However,
experiments at state and local levels will drive
creative policies that support the development of
alternative energy through regulation, enlightened
purchasing, and the creation of high profle
Top-down energy contro|
Networked appliances and smart meters open
the door for new methods of energy governance,
including techniques for managing energy
shortages. Many new proposals, including a recent
plan by the California Energy Commission, call for
°remote" control of home energy use during acute
energy emergencies. Offcials would be able to set
thermostats at the level of individual homes in order
to avoid wider black-outs. While the California plan
was ultimately defeated by citizen backlash, remote
governance of home energy use is likely to move
forward in an energy constrained future.
Personhood for "Mother Earth"
The next several decades will see intensifying
efforts by environmental groups to create new
forms of legal representation for °nature." Bolivia
has recently created the most sweeping set of
personhood rights for nature, creating a legal
mechanism for the protection of natural resources
and the environment. These °personhood
strategies" will impact the way energy is extracted,
generated, and distributed. These impacts could
include higher costs of mining, drilling, and land
Devo|v|ng power dec|s|ons
A host of new regulations is raising challenging
political questions about who is responsible for
providing energy to whom, how decisions about
the origins of that energy are made, and what
size energy community makes sense. Community
Choice Aggregation legislation, which allows
local municipalities and counties to buy and sell
electricity, has been passed in Ohio, Massachusetts,
Rhode lsland, New Jersey, and California. Several
million Americans now participate in community-
led energy provisioning initiatives, which give
consumers more choice in purchasing renewably
New power brokers
As fossil fuels come under growing public pressure
due to carbon emissions, national security, and
increasing costs, we will see the birth of a new
resource politics and unusual resource power
players. Oil, coal, and natural gas will not become
less valuable, but attention to alternative energy,
water, rare Earths, and forests (as carbon sinksj will
bring more places and people to the table. Regions
such as the wind-rich isthmus of Tehuantapec, in
Oaxaca, Mexico, are poised to transform energy
politics, creating new alliances and tensions.
E C O N O MY
Mot|vat|ng w|th a m|ss|on
Clean tech businesses are facing a dilemma: the
lag between product and service creation and
proftability may exceed ten years, especially in
implementing game-changing technologies. To keep
the best and brightest workers engaged, the clean
energy sector will highlight mission-driven objectives,
such as Google's mission °to organize the world's
information and make it universally accessible and
useful." A new cohort of engineers and scientists will
be drawn to planet-saving objectives.
Renewab|es t|pp|ng po|nt
ln most ways, energy is a typical commodity good,
and production can be dramatically shifted by even
seemingly small cost savings. From this standpoint,
the point at which as much energy can be generated
per dollar from renewable sources as from coal
represents a key economic tipping point. Current
Department of Energy estimates project that solar
energy could achieve price parity as soon as 2015.
lf this happens, expect unprecedented growth in
solar energy to follow quickly.
Energy use p|ateaus
Replacing non-renewable energy sources with
renewables is particularly challenging when total
energy demand is increasing. Fortunately, per capita
demand in the United States and other industrialized
regions has essentially leveled off, led by effciency
regulations in regions like California, where energy
use has not increased since the 1970s. ln the
coming decades, a similar dynamic will play out in
emerging economies. China, in particular, will be
crucial to leveling off global energy demand.
Repa|r and regenerat|ve econom|es
Nation states are increasingly unable to contain
the large-scale damage caused by massive natural
and man-made disasters, as evidenced by the
Fukushima radiation leaks, Hurricane Katrina, and
the BP Gulf oil spill. So-called °repair and renew
economies," fueled by energy innovations, could
provide mechanisms for continued economic
growth. New international bodies will form around
global disaster management to mitigate acute
disasters. Self-contained units consisting of
low-cost renewables, lCT, agricultural kits, and
medical services, will enable populations to survive
Extended producer respons|b|||ty
The price point for traditional fuels has not
accurately refected the entire lifecycle costs of
extraction, production, and disposal. Ongoing fscal
crises in local and state governments pressure
producers to take more responsibility for what
were once called °externalities." The Greenhouse
Gas Protocol sets forth standards for measuring
emissions across product lifecycles and supply
chains. These standards are currently being tested
by over 60 major companies and will likely become a
mandatory accounting practice for all companies in
the coming decade.
Q U A L I T Y O F L I F E
Re||g|ous groups take on power
The percentage of Americans who agree the Earth is
warming because of man-made activity has fallen from
50% in July 2006 to 34% in October 2010, according
to a Pew Research Center survey. But an emerging
coalition of religious institutions is framing energy use
as a moral issue, linking faith to environmental action.
The vatican and other groups like the National Religious
Partnership for the Environment, and the Evangelical
Environmental Network, are bringing energy issues to a
new set of constituents to create an emerging narrative
of spirituality, stewardship, and responsibility.
Purchas|ng access, not ownersh|p
Collaborative consumption, or what some call
°sharism," is a new relationship between people
and goods and services-one that will move into
the mainstream over the next decade. Driven by
the convergence of ubiquitous social connectivity,
economic volatility, new localism, and environmental
concerns, people are rethinking the need for personal
ownership of expensive and often idle goods like cars,
high-end fashion, or power tools. People are replacing
the burden of ownership with access to the capacity
the good provides, such as mobility.
New energy consumer|sm
As cars, appliances, and home systems go digital,
a set of services that make new energy practices
convenient and useful will emerge. According to
Accenture, 73% of global consumers are already
looking for energy-related, °beyond-the meter" retail
purchases. A new class of products and services will
combine conservation, effciency, and aesthetics,
providing greater control over home elements including
lighting and media displays, as in the Wi-Fi connected
light bulbs powered by the Dutch semiconductor
company NXP. Texas is leading the way in bundling
energy services, including making contributions to
community charities, providing energy management
software, Ev charging, free air conditioner
maintenance, and frequent fyer miles.
Persona| system vu|nerab|||ty
Almost everything we do and use is leaving a digital
trail-a stream of information from our online activities,
our vehicles, the built environments that we inhabit,
and even the energy we use. As energy slowly
becomes more of a two-way system, with home and
business owners providing power back to the grid
via Ev batteries or home energy generation, personal
power data will become a new battlefront in the war
over privacy and commercialization of individual data.
Persuas|ve tech dr|ves behav|or change
Effective conservation requires consistent behavior
change. Better information and superior end-user
engagement has been shown to be more effective
than guilt or shame-based techniques. The advancing
feld of persuasive technology-enabled by a rich
technological fabric of distributed sensors, mobile
devices, precise location services, and cloud
computing-is showing how personal informatics can
lead to desired behavior change. Conserving energy
will be one of the many aspects of daily behavior that
will be aided by persuasive technologies.
E N V I R O N ME N T
Dep|et|ng the g|oba| reservo|r
Axel Kleidon, a physicist at the Max Planck lnstitute,
has calculated that a massive increase in wind and
wave energy capture could negatively affect the
reservoir of °free energy" in the Earth's atmosphere.
Climate impacts could be similar to the presence
of twice as much CO2 in the atmosphere as today.
Harvesting large amounts of renewable energy
could create major atmospheric imprints, affecting
turbulence, precipitation, and the amount of solar
energy reaching the Earth, says Kleidon.
A combination of carbon reduction commitments,
effciency goals, security needs, and the desire
for energy independence is driving a move toward
reliance on local energy resources. lnnovative tools
are emerging to help re-imagine land-use and energy
generation, based on new assessments of renewables.
Eng|neer|ng the c||mate
Desperate mitigation and adaptation strategies could
become necessary to deal with climate change.
Thus, we see the rise of the idea of geoengineering-
proposals include increasing cloud brightness to
refect more sunlight away from Earth, or using iron
flings to spur carbon-sucking phytoplankton blooms
in the ocean. Despite the huge risk of unintended
consequences, geoengineering will become more
appealing if climate disruptions appear to be spiraling
out of control.
Temperature on the r|se
While there is no consensus on global average
temperature rise, most projections for the year 2100
have the Earth's temperature rising from 1º-6º C.
Prevention of some of the highest projections can be
accomplished by implementing new energy production
and consumption policies. However, thermal inertia
(the amount of warming that is already °locked in"
to the climatej will result in rising temperatures, with
associated climate disruptions.
The U.S. Geological Survey's most recent data indicate
that thermoelectric-power withdrawals accounted for
49% of total American water use. The water is used
for steam-driven turbine generators in thermoelectric
power plants, which make up 90% of electricity in the
U.S. As the Earth continues to warm, and populations
continue to grow, we will see growing disruption of our
water resources and pressure for leaders to make hard
choices about whether to use water for drinking and
food, or for electricity.
Energy consc|ous food
Energy and climate-change adaptation planners
have begun to focus on challenges at the nexus of
transportation, extreme weather, and food production.
Unpredictable storms will reshape water access and
farming practices. Growing, wealthier populations
will also demand fresher water, more protein, and
more variety in their diet. Simultaneously, there will be
increased pressure to reduce the carbon emissions of
the livestock sector. Expect a rethinking of the energy
costs of our food footprints.
The technological breakthrough never came, conservation failed,
and reactive government policy was too little too late. Alternative
energies could not scale fast enough through market forces. The
world struggled to salvage the once robust and reliable energy
infrastructure. Energy prices have become exorbitant and getting
fuel to vital machines is a constant battle. out of this almost total
energy collapse, however, a new energy future is emerging. The u.S.,
having let its energy infrastructure crumble, is now a leapfrog nation,
and distributed, renewable energy systems are being developed.
Local microgrids hold great promise to take hold in the emerging
a new dawn
There was never any energy shortage on Earth, only a shortage
in the amount of energy humans were able to harness and put to
work. Tapping into this abundance of energy is leading the world
toward a total transformation of human society and marks a cosmic
civilizational shift. Led by technological advances in solar power,
including widespread success of the artifcial leaf, the improvement
in solar effciency and costs, and the deployment of space-based
solar arrays, humans have begun to use that giant nuclear reactor, the
Sun, more effectively and effciently than ever before. If the pace of
technological advancement continues, some think we will reach the
174 petawatt mark by 2033, just eight years from now.
shar i ng t he l oad
In 2025, oil spills, nuclear meltdowns, obscene profts for fuel
producers, and accelerating climate disruptions have fnally catalyzed
the political will for more direct and heavy-handed government control
over every aspect of the energy industry. The u.S. government did not
wait for renewables to catch up and replace fossil fuels and nuclear
power. Instead, it implemented a series of mandatory effciency and
conservation efforts to strictly regulate demand, and sustainably
generate supplies. utilities were highly regulated, as were private
homes. While energy is not the ubiquitous resource it once was, if
managed properly, there is enough for everyone to meet their needs,
without destroying the environment or leading to energy wars.
a r i si ng t i de
Abundant and reliable energy are necessary to maintain economic
and social stability. By 2025, both public and private sector strategies
have created massive resource investment and incentive structures to
encourage more rapid growth in the energy sector. Energy producers
using fossil fuels, nuclear, wind, solar, and other renewables have all
seen signifcant return on their investments. unprecedented energy
innovation in both production and distribution infrastructures, as well
as services and applications associated with the smart grid, have
produced record profts and job growth. Carbon emissions and climate
change have not slowed, but climate disruptions have led to innovative
adaptations, including some small-scale geoengineering projects
yielding locally positive results.
cons t Rai nt
GRoWt H col l apse
t Rans foRMat i on
› › Regional, not national,
› › Struggles over energy
› › Personhood rights for Earth
› › New resources = new power
› › Locally owned energy
› › Rise of disaster economics
› › Renewables reach the
› › Extended producer
› › Motivating high-tech
workers with a new mission
› › Peak energy use at the
› › Religious organizations take
› › Personal data systems
become more vulnerable
› › Persuasive technology
drives behavior change
› › Purchasing access, not
› › New energy retail
› › Garbage in, energy out
› › Wind, water, and solar for
› › Recycling heat
› › Costly nukes
› › Solar Moore’s Law
› › Smart buildings
› › Energy islanding
› › Plugged-in mobility
› › Apps for energy
› › Energy data in the cloud
› › Energy conscious food
› › Growing scrutiny of water
for energy production
› › Temperatures on the rise
› › Energy locavores
› › Geo-engineering
e c onoMy
How will we innovate
strong jobs, services, and
products based on the
QUa l i t y of l i f e
How will we build a
new relationship to energy to
support better lifestyles?
R e s oUR c e s
How will we
redefne fuels and waste?
i nf R a s t R Uc t UR e
How will we
interact with new fxed,
mobile, and virtual
e nv i R onMe nt
How will we reinvent
our responses to accelerating
Gov e R nanc e
How will we re-allocate
control over energy in a world
of new power politics?
Steps in identifying and
calculating GHG emmisions
Select calculation approach
Collect data and choose emission factors
Apply calculation tools
Roll-up data to corporate level
Growth of full-cost
Robust accounting systems
such as the Greenhouse
Gas Protocol are enabling
companies to develop
comprehensive and reliable
inventories of their GHG
Agile Energy Products
ReadySet is a safe,
rechargeable battery system
for charging small devices
when the grid is down or
This mobile app provides
information on charging
stations for electric vehicles,
and indicates homes and
businesses that volunteer to
share outlets for recharging.
Distribution Wind Rose
New professions and tools,
such as graphs to plot the
distribution of wind resources,
are helping reframe land use
at the local level.
Mitsubishi Energy Beam
Mitsubishi Electric Corp. and
IHI Corporation have partnered
in a 2 trillion yen ($21 billion)
Japanese project to beam
solar energy to earth within the
next three decades.
This documentary tells the
story of three families in
Alaska, India, and China,
whose lives are already
being affected by changing
BloomEnergy’s fuel cell
“servers,” deployed in 2010 for
customers including Google,
eBay, and Walmart, are an
early signal of reemerging
commercial interest in fuel cell
Enerkem will operate a plant
slated to open in 2012 for
industrial scale production of
biofuels from municipal waste.
Energy Soft Landings
Bloomington, Indiana has
joined the Transition Towns
movement, creating an “energy
descent action plan” for a
New Legal Categories
Nations like Bolivia are part
of a burgeoning movement
to declare “personhood” for
planet Earth, granting it the
rights of any human citizen.
vatican Highlights GHG
The Pontifcal Academy of
Sciences is one of a growing
number of religious authorities
bringing issues of climate
change and environmental
futures to worshippers around
Mobile apps make behavior
change easier. You can set
up multiple meters to track
your home, solar panels,
or car, or to make personal
projections of future usage
HOW TO USE THI S MAP
explore the present, envision the future
This map is a tool for exploring the big questions and key disruptions to energy issues today, and
for envisioning the kind of future we want to build. But it's not complete without your input. Use
the supplemental process, presentations, and worksheets provided on our website (www.iftf.orgj,
grab a piece of paper, or write directly on the map, but the whole purpose is to think systematically
about the alternatives and implications to make better decisions in the present.
The interplay of action domains and alternative future scenarios on this map provides a framework
for organizing a conversation and building an energy futures strategy.
ENGAGE the Action Domains
On the map and in the text on the back of it, you'll encounter six action
domains, each of which is a necessary component of our energy future. For
each action domain you'll fnd forecasts and signals of change from today's
world. The forecasts provide information about top priorities, what's at stake
in each domain, and how existing patterns and practices may shape the
future. Take the time to absorb the forecasts. Avoid rushing to a favorite
solution or familiar problem. ldentify those that are most important to you
or your organization, as well as additional elements that are specifc to your
content. Now think about different ways to answer the core question at the
heart of each domain.
EXPLORE the Alternative Future Scenarios
The map is divided into four corners of possibility, where you'll fnd
alternative scenarios for the future of energy. Think of them as futures
archetypes organized by the categories of growth, collapse, constraint, and
transformation. These are self-contained, plausible futures that could arise
from the futures we have charted. Each scenario has winners and losers,
opportunities and threats. Now try out your own future-or that of your
organization-in each of these scenarios. Which scenario inspires you the
most? Which is most challenging? What important elements will you add?
Use the action domains, forecasts, and questions as guiding provocations as
you play out the possible directions of change in each scenario.
SCAN the Signals
Each action domain highlights two signals-small innovations or disruptions
happening today that point to larger trends in the future. What signals would
you add to the forecasts?
©2011 lnstitute for the Future. All rights reserved. All brands and trademarks remain the property of their respective
owners. Reproduction is prohibited without written consent. SR-1414
Authors: Jake Dunagan, Devin Fidler, Lyn Jeffery
Producer & Creat|ve D|rector: Jean Hagan
Des|gn & Product|on: Robin Bogott, Karin Lubeck, Jody Radzik
Ed|tor: Lisa Mumbach
Contr|butors: Brinda Dalal, Jan English-Lueck, Rachel Hatch,
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Sean Ness at email@example.com
I NF R A S T R UC T UR E
How w||| you
|nteract w|th new ñxed,
mob||e, and v|rtua|
The techno|og|ca| breakthrough never came, conservat|on fa||ed,
and react|ve government po||cy was too ||tt|e, too |ate. A|ternat|ve
energ|es cou|d not sca|e fast enough through market forces. The
wor|d strugg|ed to sa|vage the once robust and re||ab|e energy
|nfrastructure. Energy pr|ces have become exorb|tant and gett|ng fue|
to v|ta| mach|nes |s a constant batt|e. Out of th|s a|most tota| energy
co||apse, however, a new energy future |s emerg|ng. The U.S., hav|ng
|et |ts energy |nfrastructure crumb|e, |s now a "|eapfrog" nat|on,
and d|str|buted, renewab|e energy systems are be|ng deve|oped.
Loca| m|crogr|ds ho|d great prom|se to take ho|d |n the emerg|ng
COL L APSE
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