On Energy Transitions and Reservoirs

Rebekka Van Roemburg

4 May, 2020

Yesterday afternoon, my neighbour asked me how much energy my solar panels generate. Our houses are on the not-so-sunny side of the street: the flat roofs of the rooms built into the garden are not ideal for generating electricity. But I like the idea of generating some ofmy own electricity – even though the return on my financial investment is not very high. So, I had my panels installed and found that, because I started monitoring my electricity consumption and production, I started using less. For instance, until that time, I had not realized quite how much the electrical floor heating in the bathroom was using – now I turn it off as soon as I can in spring.

It is funny how life is full of parallels and metaphors. For many weeks from early March I felt extremely low on energy. I was running on empty and my body kept trying to tell me to slow down. I eventually did because I had to, but I kept resisting it. I suppose it was a fortunate circumstance that the whole world was being grounded because of the corona measures, so it should have been really easy to slow down. Yet, giving myself permission to feel tired and give in to it and making looking after myself a priority were surprisingly hard. Talking to a friend I said: it is all well and good to be engaged in the big energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables, what I need is a personal energy transition. When I said that, the penny dropped: I needed to walk my own talk.

Just like in the real energy transition it all starts with conserving energy. What are my personal energy leaks? And how can I minimize them? It is about finding your personal sources of renewable energy. What makes me truly happy, what gives me energy? And how can I bring more of that into my life? It is about making sure that you always have enough energy: making sure my personal reservoirs are full and not start using the energy as soon as it comes in.

The beautiful thing of being part of WEAVE is that we bring our whole selves into what we do. We believe that we can only contribute to transition and transformation, if we are prepared to transition and transform as individuals as well. When I shared my insights in a WEAVE team meeting, we had a really interesting conversation about reservoirs. Or rather about how our society so far has increasingly ignored the importance of reservoirs at all levels – and neglected to build them. At a personal level, people are expected to be efficient in normal times and go the extra mile when the pressure is on. When the individual’s reservoir then gets depleted, she or he is made to believe this is a personal failing. In our ever-longer supply chains, the standard has become ‘just in time’- no reservoirs, no stocks, only constant movement. When China came to a standstill because of COVID-19, suddenly we ran out of essential stocks. The global crisis also shines a strong light on the growing inequality in our societies – and just how important reservoirs are: the people who are the hardest hit are those who have no buffer, no reservoir. They will find that they can’t make the ends meet any more – and in societies with no or very weak social safety nets, they will fall through the cracks.

In other words: it is time to focus on building our reservoirs – and helping others to fill theirs.