The distribution of the energy economy is an important feature often overlooked in discussions of green or renewable energy. In a centralized energy economy, energy is generated at large industrial plants and distributed to end users through a distribution infrastructure. In a decentralized energy economy, energy is generated at or near the point of use, and the distribution infrastructure is reduced to a supplementary role balancing loads and filling gaps in generation.
The world energy economy is currently overwhelmingly centralized, with decentralized energy production accounting for only a few percent of worldwide production.
In a distributed or decentralized energy economy, energy production happens at or near points of use, eliminating the capital and administration costs, power losses, and environmental impacts inherent in the distribution infrastructure or 'grid' essential to a centralized energy economy.
|The Renewable Energy Economy: Centralized Versus Distributed|
|space demands||significant: Sprawling generation facilities distant from consumers require vast new service and distribution infrastructure, putting new pressures on wilderness habitat.||nominal: Existing blank rooftop space near points of electricity use are put to work, reducing requirements of the existing distribution infrastructure. Widespread installations in urban areas will mitigate the heat-island effect.|
|system robustness||vulnerable: Centralized plants and distribution infrastructure offer points of disruption to attack or natural disaster.||resilient: Distribution of generation resources near the points of use means no event could cause system-wide disruption.|
|nature of conversion||sequential: Implementing the large infrastructure projects of the centralized economy, with their inherent array of siting, permitting, and organizational issues, typically takes years.||parallel: Growth in the distributed renewables economy fueled by valuing micro-generation would be filled by of thousands of businesses installing renewable energy systems in weeks instead of years.|
|effect on innovation||narrowing: Giant plants will employ a handful of already-proven technologies, innovation in which has high barrier to entry due the scale of the systems.||broadening: Millions of customers of renewable energy products will create a marketplace for a broad spectrum of renewable energy products, spanning a range of technologies, some with low barriers to entry.|
|ownership and control||concentrated: Large production and transmission infrastructure is owned by a few corporations, which require regulation by oversight bureaucracies.||local: Electricity consumers own and control the means of production and thereby become energy-independent, immune from the vagaries of the retail electricity market.|
2. SOLAR INCENTIVES THREATEN LOCAL OWNERSHIP, NewRules.org,
3. Pros & Cons: Distributed Rooftop Solar vs. Desert Solar Thermal, Earth2Tech.com,