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Policy brief: Retrofutur, a counter-history of energy innovations

By Claire Roumet on 5 November 2018






by Claire Roumet, Executive director of Energy Cities

As first cold arrives, you just want to sit by the fire and travel without really moving. For once, in this "political" editorial, I’m going to talk about a book, an invitation to temporal and spatial exploration, an amazing itinerary through the meanders of energy innovation over the centuries.

Retrofutur, a counter-history of energy innovations

This collective book is based on the investigations of paleo-researchers and volunteer contributors. And they found gold. For example, an hydrogen Saurer truck developed in 1945 which travelled the roads of a French region until 1951, an invention designed to cope with the post-war fuel shortage. Or the first industrial solar thermal power plant, operating already in 1920 in Egypt. Did you know that even non-rechargeable batteries can be recharged?
When visiting the Ghent Industrial Museum, I was already impressed by their model of a perpetual bulb...

I will stop here and let you discover the incredible treasures of this book.

The good news is that this book also exists in exhibition format (and in several languages): paleo-energy to address the technological issue not as an inaccessible field managed by experts but as tools for "getting started".

Innovation is a fascinating process and the authors seek to show that it is not linear. On the contrary, it is full of crossing paths. Being equipped to discuss technical issues is essential, not to leave the debates to the experts only. An example which speaks for itself is provided by the scientists at the University of Washington, who were stuck on a problem for ten years and then had the idea of putting it online, in the form of a video game (foldit).
The gaming community solved it in less than three weeks!

This book tastes like a madeleine, yet it is also refreshing, full of hope. The solutions to our issues might be within arm’s reach, or else our collective intelligence can create them.

Have a good trip


Under the direction of Cédric Carles, Thomas Ortiz and Eric Dussert
Buchet and Chastel Edition
http://www.buchetchastel.fr/retrofutur--collectif-9782283031919
https://paleo-energetique.org/

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