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Global Futures Report 2013

62 revised concepts of cost competitiveness and “subsidies” across all energy technologies, continuing with sector-specific policies (i.e., power grids, buildings, transport) that support integration in indi- vidual sectors, and innovation and action at all levels, whether local, national, or regional. Viewpoints also suggest that such a policy bridge would include energy policies that place greater emphasis on financial risk-return metrics and risk-reducing energy-portfolio approaches rather than traditional cost-based and technology- based approaches.a Viewpoints suggest that new forms of finance, whether at the community-ownership level, or at the level of national pension funds or sovereign wealth funds, coupled with new risk-mitigation financial instruments, will also usher in transformation. And viewpoints suggest that transformation will come from the existing role of China in global renewable energy markets, and from the emerging roles of a large number of developing countries in terms of policy support, markets, development motivations, energy security, and local manufacturing. And that rural energy “access” with renewables for hundreds of millions of rural households would also be transformative, from home lighting to small industry to replacement of millions of diesel generators. Some experts saw the transformation of energy systems as an instrument of social equity—and used phrases like “energy democ- racy” to denote the control and choice that decentralized forms of renewable energy can bring. Some saw “soft” strategies like alli- ance building and communications, and building stakeholder groups at local levels, as key parts of decentralized energy futures. They favored less centralized investment, even of renewables technolo- gies themselves, and more community-based power systems. Some experts noted that public acceptance of nearby infrastructure like wind farms and transmission lines varies with the degree to which local communities feel that this infrastructure is serving them directly, or the degree to which they have an ownership or control- ling stake. (See also “Great Debate 5” on page 27.) Some experts saw transformation as driven by consumer choice and perception as well, not strictly by technologies or economics. This includes, for example, consumer decisions about which types of vehicles to buy, how the vehicles will be owned and used, how people wish to integrate vehicles with their home energy systems, and how they will allow their electric vehicles to support grid bal- ancing. Certainly, consumer choice is already playing a large role in the proliferation of rooftop solar PV systems in some countries, noted experts, along with consumer decisions to purchase green power at the retail level. (See also "Great Debate 8" on page 37.) Experts emphasized that “transformation” implies more than just integration. One asked: “Do we really need renewables to fit into the existing system, or do we need all energy technologies to evolve in different ways and with different roles and shares into a transformed energy system?” Many of the ideas noted in Chapter 2, in terms of modifying the operation of existing fossil fuel power plants, new roles for natural gas and the implications for natural gas technologies, and even hybrid fossil fuel-renewable power plants, point to a co-evolution of all energy technologies together, not just the addition of renewables. But the long infrastructure lifetimes of existing energy technologies play a role in how long the transition will take. (See the idea of “lock in” in the report's Introduction.) Finally, experts pointed to “whole-system” thinking when it comes to energy, transport, buildings, and industry, including the role of energy efficiency. Such whole-system thinking is also noted throughout this report. End-use equipment choices and higher end- use energy efficiency, for example, are crucial components of an energy system built with renewable energy. Interviewees stressed perspectives of wheel-to-wheels, cradle-to-grave, and eco- industry, and other systems thinking. And experts pointed out that “whole-system” thinking does not apply only on technical levels, but also on institutional, policy, business, and social levels. In the words of one visionary: “We can be almost certain that the future will not be a linear growth line from today. We always under- estimate the future, which then produces surprises. I’m sure we’re underestimating the growth of renewables as well.” RENEWABLES GLOBAL FUTURES REPORT CONCLUSION a) For more on policies and transformational change, a good reference is the “Policies” chapter in IPCC (2011). The IPCC report’s Chapter 8 on “Integration” is also highly relevant.

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