June 12, 2023
7 mins

Getting a Grip On Our Grid

I rap a lot about decentralization. I know. My friends crack up because I can turn just about any conversation into something about blockchain, distributed networks or crypto in two minutes or less. No matter the origin point. I can’t really help myself, because the principles that underlie decentralized distributed networks are so relevant- they’re built into our evolutionary biology. Every autonomous activity in our body is the result of energy conserving itself with shortcuts (heuristics), using distributed networks to maximize efficiency with the least amount of expenditure. So please indulge me as I prattle on about the latest developments in our renewable energy heuristics. First, let’s do a quick refresh on why we’re looking at renewables, among other things.

Our energy crisis will only be met successfully with the implementation of widespread solutions, across all industries. We need near-term solutions to buy us time, and radical long-term infrastructures to sustain us. In Project Drawdown’s assessment of the Top 20 solutions to combat Global Warming via energy resources, only five of the solutions are specifically in the Energy sector (wind, solar, rooftop solar, geothermal, nuclear). Eight are from the Food sector alone (reduced food waste, plant-rich diet, silvopasture, regen-agriculture, tropical staple tree crops, conservation agriculture, tree intercropping, managed grazing). Land Use accounts for another four (tropical forests, peatlands, temperate forests, afforestation).

How efficiently we use food and land accounts for 12 of the top 20 best ways to change our energy paradigm. Tightening up our practices within these energy resource fields alone to zero-waste (ZW) would solve for hundreds of Gigatonnes of CO2 and other damaging emissions.

Ironically enough, many of these food and land solutions are, in principle, inherent practices of indigenous cultures and abide by the truths within the honorable harvest model. But until now, there hasn’t been a way to frame, scale, monetize and distribute these positive protocols for preservation in a way that replaces a short-term-focused bottom line with a sustainable and holistic triple bottom line (Planet, People, Profit).

And not just one that touts charity and social impact.

The 65% can smell corporate platitudes a mile away in the age of information and instantaneous data triangulation. Your future depends on authenticity and action that resonates with an entire generation of Greta Thunbergs — soon inheriting the biggest wealth transfer in human history, post Boomers. And if you think that Greta is a flash-in-the-pan, you need to get real. These kids were borne into major financial and environmental crises, everywhere around the world.

Politics aside, their opinions matter. Their decisions will soon shape our new reality.

These positive protocols are starting to get some mega-upgrades. By understanding the capabilities of distributed networks and the tokens that support them, we may just be able to manufacture a future of planetary wealth and environmental health.

In order for these solutions to achieve the largest degree of scale and application, consumers need to be brought into the supply-side of the equation and evolve as prosumers.

Enter: peer-to-peer economies, Internet of Things (IoT), tokens and cryptocurrencies. (Tokenization, explained. Worth the quick read!)

The architecture of a blockchain is perfect for streamlining distributed networks of all shapes, sizes, and incentives. This is where everything from your data to your computer or mobile device’s processing power can be securely tracked and monetized, by you — to uphold, use and earn rewards from a network. That network could be anything from trading energy with your neighbors, to investing in your local grocery’s shipping/logistical blockchains in return for coupons and tokenized equity like a co-op, to buying municipal micro-bonds that earn interest over time as part of sustainable land reclamation projects.

Every one of us should feel like real shareholders in our Planet’s Equity. There’s no shortage of creative ways to do this.

It’s easiest to reflect on where we already see it happening; in distributed energy. Where I used to live in Park Slope Brooklyn, they use a Micro Grid to turn residents into “Prosumers”. Even though storage and scalability still present hurdles to overcome, communities are rapidly becoming able to generate and share their own low-cost clean energy. This allows them to create value at the distribution level — really think about that for a minute! You can literally earn money, support holistic infrastructure, and supply your neighbors with energy just by distributing the load. This is a powerful redundancy to have if anything were to happen to, say, our legacy power grid (ahem, solar activity).

Photo by Anna Vernikov

This isn’t in and of itself new information; my parent’s solar energy in Lenox, MA turned profitable a few years ago, after quickly recouping their initial investment on the equipment. The town gave incentives for residents to make the switch. But now we’re seeing an advanced infrastructure come together that fortifies and reinforces energy capabilities on all local levels and allows people to participate from all around the globe.

Forward-thinking businesses will seize this opportunity to both increase their ROI as well as their social impact standing.

Take for instance a commercial real estate developer. Imagine a soaring modern skyscraper of beautiful glass and aluminum design. Now imagine that every inch of that building is covered in transparent metamaterials that separate infrared from visible light and capture/store energy from dawn until dusk, such as those invented by Dmitriy Lopatin at RIVA. That energy can be used to self-operate the entire complex, along with some other very do-able zero-waste solutions. It can also be sold and distributed directly to the surrounding neighborhood. And imagine that these materials were only a fraction of the cost of its competitors. Because guess what? They are.

This is a win-win for everyone (except maybe for those who just lost their view to a skyscraper), and using a distributed energy architecture allows everyone, even those not buying energy, to participate in and earn from the network.

TL;DR — if we continue to be smart about the tools we have before us, we may come out of the other side of the current climate/political crisis with an entirely new system of revenue and energy resource allocation that directly supports our Planet and our People, creating Profit with every positive action.