True Accelerationism (3): Abundance is the basis of civilization, on the scale economics of renewable energy

A series on true accelerationist technologies that will be instrumental against biospheric destruction.

Although we might prize scarce items highly, civilizations are built on abundance. It is the abundance of biomass that fuelled our early use of fire. It is the abundance of fossil fuels that propelled the Industrial Revolution. It is the abundance of silicon, transistors and electronic chips that launched the information revolution and propels it today. Although they are the game-changers, these foundational materials of civilizations do not usually get noticed, because their abundance makes it easy to take them for granted. It also makes them less interesting to economists, whose attention is instead focused on scarce economic goods which, precisely due to their scarcity, are poor universal material and energy sources for building civilizations. The coming abundance emerging from the continuing decline in the investment costs of solar, wind, storage and other renewable energy technologies – together with their near-zero marginal costs of producing electricity — will surely usher another technological revolution.”

The following excerpt are from a very interesting lecture by Roberto Verzola:

* Article: Can micropower be as deep a game-changer as microprocessing? by Roberto Verzola

This is the keynote speech prepared by Roberto Verzola, Executive Director of the Center for Renewable Electricity Strategies (CREST), for the annual meeting of the Geosciences and Reservoir Engineering Group of the Energy Development Corporation, in the Philippines. EDC is the world’s second largest geothermal firm and is also active in the renewables industry.”

In summary:

“Developments in the renewable energy field indicate that we are entering a period very much like the early period of microprocessing. The technologies are almost there but not quite. Lots of innovation is going on. Prices keep dropping yet production keeps rising, contrary to what conventional economics predicts. This was exactly what happened when integrated circuits were first introduced, which later led to the earliest microprocessors and solid-state memories. It was a matter of time, before the first microcomputer was designed and built with these new components. The rest, as they say, is history. In this speech, I explore the possibility that micropower, or small-scale generation, also called distributed generation, can be as deep a game-changer as microprocessors. By deep, I mean changing the rules of the game not only within the industry, but in society as well.

My conclusion: To become a deep game-changer, the energy industry must find a way to scale down, not up, the power units in energy systems, enough to activate the economics of increasing returns to scale and trigger virtuous cycles of greater demand and lower prices.”

Read more about the scale economics of micropower, and about the policy recommendations of Roberto Verzola to the Philippine government, here.

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