Charlie Rose interviewed Jeremy Rifkin last night - great segment and am very intrigued with his ideas on the "Energy Internet" – a new distributive, collaborative model that emphasies local, renewable energy.
Here's an earlier print interview that appeared in Forbes:
Economist and energy visionary Jeremy Rifkin is senior lecturer at the Wharton School’s Executive Education Program at the University of Pennsylvania, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends in Washington, D.C., author of 19 books, and an advisor to the European Union and to heads of state around the world. In his most recent treatise, The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and World (September 2011), Rifkin describes how the current Industrial Revolution is drawing to a close and why and how we should work to shape the next one.
How did you come up with this idea?
My read on history is that the great economic revolutions occur when two phenomena come together. When we change energy regimes, it makes possible much more complex economic relations. When energy revolutions occur, however, they require communication revolutions that are agile enough to manage them. If you look at the 19th century, print technology became very cheap when we introduced steam power into printing. That decreased the cost and increased the speed, efficiency and availability of print material. At the same time we established public schools in Europe and America. We created a print literate workforce with the communication skills to organize a First Industrial Revolution driven by coal and steam power.
Then we did it again in the 20th century with the convergence of communication and energy: Centralized electricity—especially the telephone and then later radio and television—became the communication vehicles to manage a more dispersed Second Industrial Revolution, organized around the oil-powered internal combustion engine, suburban construction and the creation of a mass consumer society.
Energy historians only deal with energy, and communication historians only deal with communications, but in history you can’t really do one without the other. That’s the framework that led me to this kind of search, and the Third Industrial Revolution really came out of that narrative on how history evolves.
So, what exactly is the Third Industrial Revolution?
First of all, it’s based on a new convergence of communication and energy. The Internet has been a very powerful communication tool in the last 20 years. What’s so interesting about it is the way it scales. I grew up in the 20th century on centralized electricity communication that scales vertically. The Internet, by contrast, is a distributed and collaborative communication medium and scales laterally.
We are in the early stages of a convergence of Internet communication technology with a new form of energy that is by nature distributed and has to be managed collaboratively and scales laterally. We’re making a great transition to distributed renewable energy sources. And we distinguish those from the elite energies—coal, oil, gas, tar sands—that are only found in a few places and require significant military and geopolitical investments and massive finance capital, and that have to scale top down because they are so expensive. Those energies are clearly sunsetting as we enter the long endgame of the Second Industrial Revolution.
Distributed energies, by contrast, are found in some frequency or proportion in every inch of the world: the sun, the wind, the geothermal heat under the ground, biomass—garbage, agricultural and forest waste—small hydro, ocean tides and waves. READ MORE >>
To reinvent fire, we need to master six critical challenges.
1. Build efficient buildings and retrofit existing ones on a tremendous scale
Just one energy efficient building makes a difference. Multiply that by 120 million buildings, and, there will be a revolution. Ultimately, there’s a $1.4 trillion opportunity on the table for smart building owners and entrepreneurs to aggressively adopt straightforward efficiency techniques.
“There are several emerging trends that point to ‘cracking the code,’” said Mathias Bell, RMI consultant. “The challenge is to dramatically accelerate these nascent trends—like straightforward efficiency techniques and technologies—and leverage integrative design to achieve greater energy savings and financial returns.”
To jumpstart widespread investments in building efficiency, building owners, energy service firms and utilities need to spearhead change. The good news is that the time is ripe: the technologies are available, smart regional policies are proliferating, and the opportunity to deliver innovative hassle-free energy products at scale is increasing. READ MORE >>