Bridging the Gaps with Solutions that are Easily Within Reach
How might communities lead the rapid transition to renewable energy?
Solutions will be different based on clarifying what we mean by “communities.”
Are we talking about community on a municipal level or on a residential level? Or both?
On a municipal level, solutions will need to consider factors such as infrastructure, distribution, storage, cost, return on investment, etc.
On a residential level, factors will more likely center around cost, accessibility, and maintenance requirements -- most people want affordable easy-to-access low maintenance solutions. Adhering to these needs/wants will inherently bridge the gaps that currently inhibit an individuals’ residential use of renewable energy.
Consider, for a second, the personal computer. People didn’t own computers until they were affordable AND small enough AND friendly enough to easily introduce into our everyday lives. Then we saw a technology revolution...when the tools were easily within reach.
How do we make renewable energy “tools” also easily within reach?
STEPPING STONE 1: Friendly first step
One simple idea that could quickly get the ball rolling would be a design/sustainability framework or a toolkit (similar to IDEO’s HCD Toolkit) that provides a gateway to this energy transition. There could be versions for multiple users:
- Municipalities that are transitioning their large-scale energy utility ecosystems
- Residential users that are introducing renewable energy into their everyday lives
- Designers/engineers/companies who make and bring to market new renewable energy technologies.
A good primary construction of this framework would be a website that can expand, grow and change as new technologies enter the arena. This would be a hub of various resources. The website could also be supplemented with other usual avenues: an app, print material, etc.
This idea isn’t very innovative, but it is a basic and essential way to provide various stakeholders with a place to start, to learn and to gain the confidence they need to be in the drivers seat. How can you leap from A to Z without simple stepping stones in between? Any kind of transition requires a friendly first step.
STEPPING STONE 2: Incentives
Transitions require incentives. I’m not sure how this will look exactly, but I believe it will likely delve into government tax incentives and ways for stakeholders to immediately have visible/tangible money savings and energy reduction.
STEPPING STONE 3: Education
We should make energy use less abstract for young citizens. Schools can introduce ways of making energy consumption AND savings as familiar (and as important) as math and science to young kids.
When you look at cultures from our not-so-distant past, there was a strong awareness of life’s give and take. There was a connection between our wellbeing and our consumption of available resources. In today’s world, our culture is taught about consumption from get-go with advertisements, shopping malls, fast food, and a newer-better-more mentality. We have become accomplished consumers!
It is important, now, to revive our long-practiced age-old appreciation and stewardship of resources. Education is the best place to start, within the school and within the home.
So, I guess the idea here is to layout our stepping-stones, big and small. Find our own paths and help others as they seek to find their own. We lay down stones for others as we lay them down for ourselves.
As for idea implementation, I think the framework mentioned as “stepping stone 1” would be a great place to start. It is something tangible and can engage contributions and conversation.