An energy book discusses the many possible alternatives to fossil fuels.
At its heart, Nussey’s wide-ranging work on the renewable and alternative energy possibilities is about disruption—of the status quo and the complacency of the fossil fuel industry. He cites a well-known series of such disruptions even from comparatively recent technological history: The internet decimated newspapers; email and services like FedEx largely replaced snail mail as a means of communication and delivery; electric lights displaced gas lamps; and so on. “In each case, existing market structures were upended,” the author writes. “Enormous new companies emerged as incumbents became less relevant.” His book presents a wide array of possible disruptors to those existing market structures, fuels like “green hydrogen” and of course the ubiquitous “super-abundant electricity” designed to free millions of people living without access to cheap, easy energy. Nussey refers to this group of alternative sources as “fuels 2.0,” and he stresses that he’s talking about local energy: individuals, communities, and area businesses finally taking control of “one of the most essential parts of our lives—energy.” This small-scale, local focus stands in contrast to the current situation, where, as the author points out, energy is exclusively controlled. In most parts of the world, electricity services are monopolies, with only one company allowed to sell kilowatt hours. “With no competition,” he writes, “innovation is stifled and often non-existent.” Hence, the disruption represented by rooftop solar panels and “microgrids.”
Nussey writes engagingly, and he’s strongest in the most crucial element of a book like this: lucidly and vigorously explaining the science and technology behind fuels 2.0. He’s interviewed many key players in the potential energy revolution, which he characterizes as both top-down and bottom-up: “The power industry is slowly (very slowly) shedding its roots as a fuel-driven, asset heavy, top-down business into something that is increasingly defined by the economics of technology.” He’s clear that one of the key aspects of that revolution is the refinement and widespread deployment of batteries and storage systems for the power generated by renewables. Batteries and storage systems are going to be a core part of the future of electric power, he writes, “be it a grid-scale wind farm, a community solar project, a solar rooftop, or a tiny system that can power a few LED lights in Africa after the sun goes down.” The author is passionate in advocating for change, but he’s also unfailingly realistic. Skeptics wary of overly idealistic daydreaming on the subject of clean energy will find Nussey a doggedly cleareyed guide to what he rightly calls “the treacherous divide between wild-goose-chases and billion-dollar opportunities.” He tackles the implementation of these alternatives on every level of manufacture and production, and his emphasis on individual options will deeply engage readers who feel trapped on the treadmill of big energy.
A passionate, valuable, and detailed blueprint for remaking the shape of everyday energy production.