Managing energy: rethinking the fundamentals

November 19, 2010 | 00:00

Managing energy: rethinking the fundamentals

In the past half-century a vast array of government and corporate entities has come to manage energy, or some aspect of energy, in one way or another. They have attained high levels of technical achievement and, in some cases at least, economic success. Nevertheless, the results overall have been less than satisfactory. Despite technological and economic advances, some two billion people are still without electric light. Moreover, scientific evidence indicates ever more forcefully that human use of energy is upsetting planetary systems, with consequences that could be catastrophic. The way we manage energy worldwide is creating serious problems for climate and energy security.

We need urgently to reassess the arrangements and processes by which we manage energy, in all its diverse manifestations. We have long known that the technical potential for improvement in many contexts is substantial. But realizing this potential will entail significant changes in institutions, business and finances. Such changes will happen swiftly and effectively enough only if those involved see them as advantageous. We need to understand better how and why people and entities manage energy now. That may enable us to identify ways and incentives to change the arrangements and the processes for the better, with the active participation of the managers.

Working Paper 1, 'Managing Energy Wrong', looks at how we manage energy, who does what and why, and how we might do better. It argues that we focus too much on short-term trade in commodity fuel, and not enough on investment in the user-technology that delivers energy services. For purposes of managing energy we therefore collect the wrong data, and we analyse it wrong. Working Paper 2, on 'Managing Energy Data', explores this issue, challenges the conventional view of energy in society, and offers a more promising vision. The present Working Paper, number 3, on 'Managing  Energy Technology', develops the next stage of the analysis, redefining energy technology, examining its interaction with fuel and suggesting how this might evolve.

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