Creating an 'energy Internet' for the poor

The world's poorest countries can jump directly from the pre-electricity era into
a new industrial revolution through an "energy Internet" — the uptake of renewable
energy shared through communication technologies, argues economist Jeremy Rifkin.

"The great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication
technologies converge with new energy systems", writes Rifkin.

And now — with industrial civilization at a crossroads and the
need to transition to a post-carbon era — internet technology and renewable energies
are coming together to create a new infrastructure for a Third Industrial Revolution,
a decentralized system where millions of people can produce green energy locally and
share it with each other.

Rifkin points out that because developing countries do not have an aging electricity
grid, they can "leapfrog" into a new energy era by building new, distributed electricity
systems. This will significantly reduce the time and cost of making the transition
— the European Union needs to spend US$ 1.3 trillion between 2010 and 2020 to update
electricity grids and keep up with renewable energy.

Economic development is impossible without reliable and affordable
green electricity, says Rifkin, and this democratization of energy will help raise
40 per cent of the global population out of poverty. Power and control over energy
will shift from "giant" fossil fuel companies to millions of small producers, diffusing
risk as neighborhoods and regions pool resources to create local grids.

Establishing this infrastructure to transition to a Third Industrial Revolution will
require setting down several 'pillars' simultaneously, which include shifting to renewable
energy; building micro-power plants to collect renewable energies; and using the Internet
to create an "energy-sharing intergrid".