The post COP21 outlook as seen from a hilltop in the middle of nowhere

by Flemming Heden, Senior Engagement Manager at GES

My family’s cherished summer cottage sitting on a hilltop in Sweden’s Dalarna district is surrounded by vast forests. In these forests you will find moose, wolves, bears, lynx and every now and then also humans. Quite soon a new beast will be found in the area, the Moose Hill Wind Farm. But do not take me for a NIMBY, I welcome this newcomer in my backyard. It is easy to be generous with a Liechtenstein-sized backyard.

Demand for the wind farm’s output is found, in relative terms, nearby. The local Smedjebacken steel mill, established in 1856 and owned by a company whose operations now span three continents, is likely one keen user of the wind farm’s clean energy. Another supporter would probably be the chatty local bicycle dealer who has been so successful in promoting his selection of electric powered bicycles that his hipster competitors from Stockholm have signalled both envy and suspicion.

Not far away in the opposite direction, another friend for the wind farm can be found in the small town of Ludvika, the birthplace and still the centre for one of the Sweden’s most successful export industries. From here, key components ensuring safe and efficient power from wind farms and other sources of energy are delivered across the world.

The changing landscape as well as changes in the local economy are part of a bigger worldwide shift, away from use of fossil fuels such as coal resulting in smog and similar nuisances. The resulting social costs and environmental impacts  are clearly local and less clearly, but equally importantly, also global through its contribution to climate change. This end of an era does not, however, mean that electric power is going away anytime soon. Instead it is in fact likely that our dependence on it will increase as also the cars are expected to run on it.

Most power utilities have come to realise that an economy-wide transformation is about to happen. I have discussed the investor implications in more detail in the February issue of the maGESine.  Meanwhile back at the farm, as the Moose Hill Wind Farm example illustrates, this energy revolution is now also becoming more apparent for the rest of us. Better air quality aside, there are many additional opportunities to benefit from.

One opportunity is to try out the new prosumer identity. If you in any shape or form have had contact with social media you know what it means. The prosumer is both a consumer and a producer. In this context it means more energy independence, lower costs and potentially an entirely new revenue stream for you.  Cost are coming down quickly and a private off-and-on-the-grid capable rooftop power plant is no longer a distant dream but increasingly an interesting business opportunity, especially in rural communities.

In one way it is challenging to pinpoint what the practical effects are of the recent COP 21 meeting. At the same time, we can see it all around us. New kinds of light bulbs in our homes and offices, electric powered bikes and cars in the street, as well as wind farms in the horizon. I have already, with childish joy, tested the type of soundless e-powered mountain bike that I one day plan to use to extend my rides up and down the hills around our summer house. The thought of being able to re-charge the bike afterwards with home-brewed power is even more satisfying.

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