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What the Present of Tech Tells About the Future of Energy - Barış Sanlı

Once upon a time, there was Napster. The decentralized file-sharing system was revolutionary. It transformed the music industry and created what we called the "streaming industry." But the whole process was not without hurdles. The creation of new models and their implementation took a long time. Now we have prosumers and then what?

The people of the energy business think that the "prosumer" concept is revolutionary. So does decarbonization and digitalization. But if you look at the 3D printers and the Maker movements, you see another prosumer movement. The basic logic is simple, and the tech should give people more freedom. It should foster their creativity and contribution to society. 3D printing technology has yet to transform our industrial world. It has started, but it will need some time to be the main stream.

The Maker society of the 3D printing world quite resembles our "prosumer society." It didn't crash any industrial mogul yet, but who knows what will happen.

The internet's progress from central servers to VPN or more privately owned spaces is also another similar example. It looks like the microgrids of the energy landscape have a sibling from the internet world. Are the VPNs or microgrids future of our world? We hope not. Microgrids are useful, but we may not want to live in a federated microgrids' world…

Now the electricity system is likely to dominate mobility and other areas. Just like the electrification of our energy system, digitization is also expanding like never before.

Just like switching from cassettes and videotapes to streaming services, we are moving from thermal and steam-based systems to more solid-state like systems such as power electronics, solar systems, inverters, and hopefully to solid-state batteries.

There are limits to how tech and energy inspire each other. For example, years ago, Facebook was a prime example of how energy companies should move forward. However, now, no energy company wants to be like Facebook.

The telecom has also moved from landlines to cell phones, but we couldn't see that either in energy. Centralized energy is more or less the dominant power. The invention of automobiles has replaced most railway travel. We couldn't see that in energy, too.

However, the future of energy still looks to tech for inspiration. Whether it is AI or digitalization, the interaction is inescapable. Therefore we may use the current trends in tech to forecast future energy systems.

The biggest tech innovations are merging with energy in the field of clean energy. But the biggest privacy concern is creating new discussions. These discussions will be carried to the energy realm. Like the tech companies becoming more powerful than the governments, renewables may shift the power balance in favor of companies. Electric cars may not be the private spaces that diesel cars provide. Contrary to what is believed, tech didn't bring the freedom we imagined. So energy transition may follow the steps.

Consumer wise, there will be more options in the clean energy world. But all of these options will carry the risks of privacy concerns and the control of the consumer side. The future of energy will see more private discussions.


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