This is Part Four in a series of six blog posts reflecting on The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, by Jeremy Rifkin (2011) as it relates to the topic of Entrepreneurial Innovation.
Germany really is the exception and Rifkin barely mentions that massive undertaking, perhaps because he wasn’t directly involved and possibly because he didn’t put much stock into the experiment. His plan was far less ambitious than transitioning the world’s fourth largest economy into renewable energy in so short a window of time. But in many ways, we should find more relevance here in how Rifkin did proceed, enticing individual large cities to create a green business plan which took his five pillars into consideration.
Working to create an individualized plan involving city governments, citizens, as well as appropriate stakeholders in the energy, building, and urban development spheres, Rome, San Antonio, Monaco, and Ubrecht (Netherlands) would each sit for the process of designing a space for a million or more people to live together during the Third Industrial Revolution. The effect was innovative in the working agreements and arrangements across seemingly unrelated sectors to make everything work the way it’s supposed to. For example Rome had too much office space and not enough housing in the civic core, so they gutted the office buildings and turned them into energy efficient Third Revolution housing, thereby bringing more workers in from the suburbs and saving the carbon emissions from their commute. They also emphasized creating green spaces where food could be grown closer to the city since driving food into the city generated an exorbitant amount of carbon emissions.
Rifkin’s plans re-frame any capital expenditures as investments rather than costs, since they ultimately saved money by producing new good paying green jobs, saving the environment, and lowering health care costs. Monaco had to convince its wealthy part time full time residents to shut off their appliances and create power generating houses without compromising the architectural feel of the place, creating the innovation of hidden photovoltaics in the terracotta roof tiles, building canopies, walls, glass, shutters, wherever they could find a way to collect sunlight. While offering a generous 30% subsidy to all takers. In San Antonio, the plan invited nuclear power to the table in spite of its history with safety, still unknown fate of toxic nuclear waste, and the astronomical costs of building a reactor. Just before the city voted on the plan, Toshiba raised its cost estimate by $4 billion which ended up scuttling the entire deal, except for the 900 megawatts of wind power they’d already built. And the human connections made during the process.
This section of the book caught my attention specifically because it deals with innovation in the ways we do business. The more we can network, the more people and interests we can involve, the more stakeholders can get a say in how things ultimately look….the more likely the innovation we seek serves the interests of those we wish to serve. It’s a new way of thinking about everything. And next we’re going to think about lateral power and how that is changing everything.