Almost every country in the world will face massive energy challenges over the next few decades. In the UK we are already faced with an energy ‘trilemma’ – three important goals that are pulling us in different directions. We need to aggressively reduce carbon emissions, while ensuring that a varied energy supply can reliably meet our energy needs, and we need to achieve this without exacerbating fuel poverty, by keeping energy bills at affordable levels.
In this context, we need fresh insight into energy supply, demand, and efficiency. The challenge is that innovative solutions will need to engage with the complex interplay of technology and behaviour, suggesting that the traditionally technology-led energy sector needs to become more curious about the foibles of human nature, and customers need to become more curious about their interaction with the energy technologies they rely on every day.
Unfortunately, most people are not particularly interested in their relationship to ‘energy’ as such, and a variety of attitude surveys suggest growing levels of ‘green fatigue’. We may think about the issue of ‘energy’ when we notice our gas and electricity bills are getting higher, but our curiosity is rarely piqued while turning up the heating or leaving the lights on.
Perhaps if we better understand the nature of curiosity in general, we might find ways to cultivate curiosity about our shared energy needs, both in the energy industry and the population at large. If we can do that, it may help us spur the kinds of social and technical innovation that are now political, economic and ecological imperatives.