My initial thinking behind Energy Fitness Landscapes

I am looking at the Energy Transition from an evolving technology innovation perspective. In other words, what “forces” can be identified or promoted that can transform the existing energy system through the pursuit of the new invention, innovation, or technological advancement.

Specifically, the ones that will be needed over such an extended time and complexity of change that this Energy Transition will take, upwards of twenty to thirty years to give it an unstoppable momentum.

I have been building out the value in my proposal of having a Fitness Landscape framework within the Energy Transition and why it makes sense.

Here in this post, I want to expand on my thinking around navigating a complex landscape that the Energy Transition demands.

When you look through the lens of innovating at the Energy Transition, you are often questioning the fitness, or the reality to achieve something.

A risk of the energy transition is we give higher emphasis on the depth of knowledge in one area and fail to pull this together, to map it into the bigger picture of the practical, broader-based one.

This “mapping back” gives our broader Society and non-expert groups needing to relate to the Energy transition gives them identification. It generates their need to change or support change and brings about more extensive (behavioural) change and awareness. Otherwise, they just accept the idea of advancement but equally block it if it does not fit their frame of thinking or how or why it is relevant to them.

The value of fitness landscapes as part of any Energy Transition awareness makes sense to bring identity and structure.

Let me explain this by keeping Hydrogen as the initial focus:

I have taken Hydrogen as my opening exploration to traverse this Energy landscape

I need to begin to evaluate the value of knowing the real part of any hydrogen ‘fitness’ and what makes up its distinctive dynamic capabilities that moves it towards the solutions we need to have in place to contribute in significant ways to the energy transition that is underway.

These solutions can be, but not limited to, Technology and Innovation, Scale and Adoption, Infrastructure and Market Conditions, Government Engagement and Involvement, Industry, and critically vital Public adoption.

We need to visualize and articulate change in connecting ways.

I believe both the Three Horizon framework that I have deployed for years  (see this post for relating it to the energy transition) and the concept of knowing your fitness and the landscape have real value in the Energy Transition.

Both methodologies allow for a greater collective identity and engagement of all the necessary expertise and generalists to come together. In a complex challenge like the Energy Transition, you need to create the identification and build the collaborative ecosystem to focus resources on the (shared) identified goals.

Taking Hydrogen as my point of reference, to understand the context, complexities, and creative tension.

By firstly, mapping out the hydrogen terrain to the task at hand enables us to understand and relate to what is needed – I call that the context for change. I have been investigating Hydrogen as a promising energy carrier to understand the barriers and obstacles to the energy transition we need to undertake. There are so many underlying “tensions” in this change from established fuels, infrastructure, and product delivery that Hydrogen needs to overcome.

Taking this fitness landscape thinking a little further here.

Any Energy Transition Fitness Landscapes identifies the opportunity spaces on where you need to focus your efforts- the appropriate resources to navigate the terrain. The higher the ‘fitness’ transforms your landscape potential into accelerating opportunities into final tangible outcomes.

Fitness Landscapes helps in this task by identifying the opportunity spaces on where you need to focus your efforts‐ and apply the appropriate resources to navigate the terrain. The greater understanding of the ‘fitness points needed’ can transform your hydrogen landscape potential, or in business parlance, achieve your goal.

Mapping out your capabilities, competencies, and capacities to the task at hand enables you to understand and relate to what is needed. You begin to get fit for the journey ahead.

I took what I call a “Fitness Landscape Result Expectancies” approach.

Fitness Landscape Result Expectancies

My approach here is a work-in-progress; it will evolve and adapt depending on interest and demand.

These are my “first pass thoughts” of the expected results or points of investigation sought, by identifying the critical aspects of capability identification for the Hydrogen (or any energy transformation journey), to make it a significant contributor to the Future Energy Mix.

We need to appreciate or consider the following as principles or guidelines:

  • A greater understanding of the obstacles and barriers to Hydrogen, becoming a significant energy carrier in the future energy mix is critical to understand. It “conveys” the fitness landscape journey.
  • The understanding of what needs to be changed moves Hydrogen towards an energy transition that is sustainable and evolutionary built on technology investigation, validation, and ability to scale. Solutions gain world-wide. Recognition and adoption as the resulting outcomes and processes from discovery to realization.
  • The journey generates a learning process for the identification of real and ‘false’ dynamic capabilities. Dynamic capabilities bring about change in the environment. As we frame, we can identify differences separating the more static ones that often just need reinforcement or retirement as not of lasting value.
  • Pursuing limited or ‘selective’ development allows for restrictive exchanges within a network of specialization. These will not have the desired effect to accelerate solutions that can replace the existing ones unless the broader network effects are not accounted for.
  • Any fitness landscape journey, where change is a significant level of requirement, requires a holistic view of the existing issues and the intent and goal of the journey by framing a clear strategic plan to mobilize the necessary forces.
  • The solutions suggested will draw out internal discussions, growing recognition, and reality of the present and future needs in this area of resource allocation and capital allocation.
  • Importance of linking capability across different activities or technology applications to become increasingly ‘dynamic’ for a more sustainable future.
  • The ability to build out a clear capability portfolio knowing where resource needs to be applied and their likely timeframe from concept to fruition. These evaluations will also help identify synergies to bring new value and future impact options.
  • We need to challenge long, well-established routines and processes to see how we can extend technology options. To discover and continue the existing can be valuable to place additional resources behind.
  • Having clarity in the fitness landscape allows for regularly taking additional “adaptive walks” to learn and adjust current thinking and question alternatives more openly.
  • Knowing your capabilities, competencies, and capacities become important so this understanding intensifies and equally solidifies the studies, through constantly challenging and questioning the investigation and landscape model.

Outcomes from these expected results raise dynamic capability and the importance of dynamism for more flexibility and fitness discovery. By identifying higher points of value, you accelerate the change process and plot different projects and their impact. You have greater confidence in where to invest new capital and resources.

Looking for outcomes and outputs.

The reason I am building this into a workable model is it firstly extends on my previous work in Innovation Fitness Landscapes and it takes out my focus on the Energy Transition.

Within this adaptive approach to the Energy Transition, we can seek out and determine the Energy Fitness Landscape to then determine where the critical focal points are so the necessary resources, and capital can be applied.

I want to identify the necessary capacities, competencies, and capabilities to undergo this journey. Its ultimate aim is to identify outcomes that can become ones that give additional focus to knowing which are valuable.

Also, which aspects need to be extended and accelerated, that build on the existing solutions and gives us also the decision points to let go of projects or concepts which have limited or no value. Then those resources and capital should be released to be redirected onto the ones that hold promise, impact, and value.

The energy complexities do need understanding, explaining, and mapping. The knowledge of how the traversing will be undertaken to get to the end goal of a clean energy system as soon as we can, needs often different articulation?

Fitness landscapes help make the journey a lot easier to determine what is needed to undertake it. It is a dynamic process that stays ‘evolving’

The Energy Ecosystem needs re-configuring to clean energy only.

Understanding any ecosystem, you have to attempt to understand the whole system. The energy system is no different to begin to relate and build out innovative solutions that bring this complexity into some form of a new order.

To help with this energy ecosystem thinking the International Energy Agency (IEA) are doing some pioneering work that I want to touch upon here briefly, so there is a broader awareness of this.

Exploring the IEA  report yet again, “Energy Technology perspective: Special Report on Clean Energy Innovation” released mid last year, actually on 2nd July 2020 it has so much depth of value to relate too, in the energy transition challenges being faced.

In this report, they have developed some improved modelling tools to bring a higher capacity to answer key technology questions in greater detail that make up the Energy Ecosystem. This new modelling is good news and highly valuable.

Incidentally, IEA further followed that up later in 2020 with a flagship ETP 2020 publication to keep a tighter and more consistent focus on the role and need of innovation to accelerate clean energy transitions.

The ability to map the entire Energy System is critical

The work undertaken by the IEA has produced a comprehensive perspective of where we are today and our needs to track the achievements of different innovation breakthroughs known and in development or validation, to bring about the required clean technology energy solutions that need to be innovative in design for a new Energy System.

Their ETP Clean Energy Technology Guide is an interactive framework that contains information for over 400 individual technology designs and components across the whole energy system that contribute to achieving the goal of net-zero emissions. Currently, this stands at 433.

For each of these technologies, it includes information on the level of maturity (or Technology Readiness Level, TRL) and a compilation of development and deployment plans, as well as cost and performance improvement targets and leading players in the field.

You can use the different filters offered to narrow down the selection of technologies you are interested in, to achieve your designated search. Also, they provide an amazing poster version that covers all the energy ecosystem aspects. Here is a download link to this poster.

The Critical Parts of the Clean Energy Ecosystem

Briefly, the IEA approach breaks down the Energy Ecosystem by the classic Supply-side, the Co2 infrastructure aspects needed for clean energy, and the Demand Sectors by the crucial parts of transport, industry, and buildings.

The Supply Side requirement from Clean Energy Technologies

The guide goes into all aspects of the technologies in the energy transformation on power generation, heat, tackling biofuels, hydrogen, ammonia, synthetic hydrocarbon fuels, and refining. The technology grouping is then further broken down into generation, storage, and infrastructure as well as specific production and transport where necessary.

The Co2 infrastructure required for Clean Energy

This looks at the importance of Carbon Capture, Storage and Utilization (CCSU) with a breakdown of Supply sided CCU’s, Direct Air Capture (DAC) and Demand CCU’s tackling high-value chemicals, methanol, ammonia, iron and steel, cement and aluminum by fuels and methods

The Demand Sectors needs from Clean Energy Innovation Technologies

Within the breakdown, you have a structured approach to the technology grouping, the technologies applied, the sub-technology where necessary, and the specific components or designed needed. Within this demand side, it breaks the three significant energy consumers down into transport, industry, and buildings.

Transport covers the road, rail, shipping, aviation, and freight, showing sub-components or design by vehicle mode, their needed infrastructure, operations, and necessary components of different design solutions.

The industry segment covers critical a comprehensive breakdown of dealing with different “harder-to-abate areas covering ammonia, methanol, ethylene, benzene, toluene, and xylenes. Then it covers the specific industry sectors of high-value chemicals, plastics, iron and steel, cement, pulp and paper, aluminium, metallic products, and finally, cross-cutting one that requires systems integration. The technology applied covers fossil fuel, biomass-based, electrolytic H2 based, further broken down into recycling, blast furnacing, smelting, kilns, grinding, curing, pulping, and waste production conversion.

The buildings segment is broken down firstly into construction, renovation, then their heating and cooling options and designs, with further sections dealing with cooking, lighting, and system integration. Here it is looked at by generation, performance, efficiency, co-generation, distribution, control system, and storage.

To capture the Ecosystem of Energy Innovations and Technologies is a fantastic piece of work

This work is a stunning breaking down of the entire Energy System, which was updated this year by the  International Energy Agency and presented in such a visual way in the poster design work by Lundgren+Lindqvist gives us all the understanding of the complexity but also the innovation technology opportunities available.

The other more amazing part is the interactive website for using and tracking the evolution of The Clean Energy in Innovations and Technology as an ongoing Guide for presently 433 identified individual technology designs and components across the whole energy system for knowing where we are in their contribution to achieving the goal of net-zero emissions is impressive.

Yout time would be well-invested in viewing this work by the IEA if you want to grasp the entirety of the Energy System as a whole and what makes up this Ecosystem

I have to recommend anyone interested in the Energy System take a look at the website or download the poster to appreciate the complexity of the design and change we are all caught up in and need to support.

Our energy systems and tracking their progress today and in the future allows us all to participate and build more pressure on those undertaking the need for a radical redesign. It is of a scale that can be better understood by this work that the IEA is undertaking, showing the innovations for technologies that can deliver the clean energy ecosystem we need to have in place..

Do take the time to visit the website https://www.iea.org/articles/etp-clean-energy-technology-guide