The Future shock pandemic—are there any remedies?

Energy transition- how to turn a problem into a possibility

Any changes cause concern and protest in most people. Especially when these changes occur rapidly and concurrently in different sectors. Alvin Toffler, an American sociologist and futurologist, described this phenomenon in 1970 and called it «future shock». It is possible to tell safely that the energy transition has now become one of the factors of the future shock, particularly in Ukraine. A large number of myths and disputes around renewable energy - the consequences of this phenomenon - put pressure on government and RES entrepreneurs, impeding development and demanding a return to «traditional» energy sources - coal and oil. At the same time, nowadays it is already quite clear that energy efficiency and renewable energy are the future. After all, the energy transition can solve the global problems of humankind - the rapid growth of demand for electricity in a situation of no less rapid deterioration of the environment - including through the electricity generation by burning coal and carbohydrates.

And here a «futurе-paradox» arises: the faster the energy transition is, the more it provokes the future shock, slowing it down. And the longer the transition delays, the sooner it needs to be done, because climate change can become inevitable. That is, the longer we delay the RES transition and the introduction of energy efficiency, the more shocking and painful it gets.


How to break the circle of this paradox?
More awareness- less fear
A family of ancient people is sitting around the fire at night. Another difficult day, full of dangers, the need to find food and a place to sleep, is left behind. А dark night full of threats is ahead. All around is a narrow circle of flickering light from the fire, with the whole great world close to it. People are sitting in this circle, and something is happening outside it. This something - incomprehensible - sometimes breaks into the circle of light in the guise of a hungry predator, a rockfall, dense rain…

«Everything happening outside the circle of light is a threat» is a millennial axiom of humanity. Evolutionarily, our brain is afraid of everything inapprehensible and unusual - everything that is outside the circle of the flickering fire light. Modern people, like our ancestors, live in the same circle of light - the ordinary and understandable world to them. When something new and incomprehensible invades life, initially we tend to perceive it as a threat. But over the millennia, humanity has learned to not only fear the incomprehensible, but also to explore it. In fact, the study of the unknown in order to reduce future risks and threats is the basis of progress. The better a person understands the essence of a new phenomenon or technology, the calmer and more balanced he/she treats it and the more actively seeks opportunities to use it to their advantage.

Today we are witnessing and participating in another leap of progress: a new threat - climate change - has entered the illuminated circle of our ordinary lives. The climate is changing dramatically rapidly, and during the life of one generation it became clear from the abstract discussions of scientists and everyone felt the consequences.

Humankind saw this threat and began to look for an answer to it. In some 20-30 years, a solution was found - the transition to renewable sources and conscious, economical use of energy - the energy transition, which became one of the priorities to policy of the world's leading countries very fast.

At the same time, the energy transition, solving one problem, created a new one - it caused a wave of anxiety and even aggression among people who have not yet understood the essence of this process and its absolute necessity. «The incomprehensible frightens» - the old principle worked out all over again: a wave of quarrels and aggressive discussions swept across the world. Ukraine has not been spared by it as well. Especially since we «jumped» into this process later than other countries, where the topic of the need to develop energy saving and renewable energy from the «new and incomprehensible« has already become «familiar and obvious».

It is quite natural that the first steps of the energy transition in Ukraine provoked a stormy discussion in society and gave rise to many myths, fears and even aggression. Ukraine has become a striking example of the «future-paradox»: rapid development has caused a negative reaction from society, which has begun to slow it down. This delay has led to the need to accelerate development in order to keep up with developed countries.

How to overcome this paradox? First, turn the mysterious and frightening into clear and then useful. That is, where everyone will see their own opportunity and their own benefit. Not somewhere in the abstract future, but here and now. This can be done by expanding the circle of light from the fire – by the means of education.

Light energy of education
In recent years, the topic of the irreversibility of the energy transition has been acquiring more significance in Ukraine. However, the research shows that a large part of Ukrainians still largely do not understand its essence and, accordingly, treat it negatively, and sometimes even aggressively. This restrains this important process. Another factor that slows down development is a certain uncertainty in the attitude of governing bodies of various levels - from national to local.

This has become a fertile ground where myths and fakes grow, filling the information space. Modern Ukrainians find themselves in the situation of ancient people again: the unknown bursts into the personal information bubbles (the shimmering circle of the known) - terrible myths about renewable energy. «The feed-in tariff is subsidized at our expense», «nuclear energy is cheaper than any other», «wind turbines kill birds…» And all this is supported by the echo of arguments in the «officials' offices» and regular information about the «another conspiracy of the oligarchs».

Obviously, this only increases the fear of the unknown and creates another circle of future-paradox. The public is increasingly negative about renewable energy, thus hindering its development in Ukraine. And the lag in development will require more and more decisive steps from the state, which will cause an even more negative reaction from the public.

There is only one way to break this circle - by transforming the unknown into the clear and the useful. This requires educational projects and programs that reveal the content and mechanics of the energy transition, make it clear not only to a limited number of professionals, but also to the general public. We need such projects as a 12-episode popular science series «Light Energy», created on the initiative of KNESS Group and Ukrgasbank. Or the Solar Abilities platform, launched by the KNESS Group, which publishes daily positive news on green energy and the environment and has more than 300,000 readers.

But it is clear that specialized platforms and media alone are not sufficient to solve this problem. After all, despite all efforts, the amount of educational content that they produce and promote is much less than the amount of other mythological and negative content. Accordingly, it is necessary to increase the share of «green content» in other, broad-based media. This should help journalists and editors better understand the content and role of renewable energy. Indeed, they are the same people as everyone else. And they also live in a «flickering circle» of their own ideas about the events and processes of the big world.

Vinnytsia Press Club, implementing an educational project for journalists and editors, has followed the path of «education for educators». This project currently covers Vinnytsia, Odesa, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions. At the same time, its experience can be interesting for scaling up the approach to the national level.

Energy school for journalists
According to the initiators - Vinnytsia Press Club - the goal is to create a system of educational materials to help journalists and media editors to improve understanding of the content of the energy transition, in particular in the renewable energy sector.

Initially, an expert group of scientists, specialists and experts in modern energy developed an information base for the future course: the main topics and their content with specific facts and examples were identified. The next step was to create specific media products: online and printed manuals, video lectures, etc.

Jointly with the «Light Energy» team, a series of 4 video lectures was developed and filmed: «History of Renewable Energy», «What is an Energy System?», «Development Stimulation: Feed-in Tariff and Auctions», «Future Trends: RES Electricity Price in Ukraine and the world». The lectures are designed so that they can be viewed online or used as part of offline trainings and meetings.

The main features of media products: simplicity and clarity of presentation, high relevance and connection with practical examples, ease of use. That is, the authors of the project did everything to present a complex engineering and economic topic in simple and clear language and saturate it with real examples.

After the video was created, the school for journalists and editors was launched. First in Vinnytsia, and later in Odesa, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, in cooperation with local press clubs and taking into account Vinnytsia's experience.

Over 3 months, about 50 students in each region will hold a series of training seminars and webinars, meet with scientists and practitioners in the RES sector and energy in general. They will also be able to take part in a competition of journalistic works.

According to the authors, this approach will create the preconditions for the dissemination of useful and accurate information about the energy transition and RES, as well as for preventing the emergence of new and multiplication of existing fakes and myths.

In case of success, this project model can be applied to other regions of Ukraine and become an important component of the national program of information support for energy transition.

Of course, this single project, as well as other individual educational and information projects, is not able to radically change the situation. But the very fact of its emergence and the possibility of interaction between this and other projects does an important deal - it prepares the ground for the deployment of an educational program on a national scale. And such a program will be urgently needed at a time when the national strategy for Ukraine's energy transition will finally be adopted at the state level and the issue of minimizing the effects of future shock will become acute. Then the experience of various educational projects, which are now implemented by enthusiasts with microscopic resources, will be a unique basis for the development of systematic work to overcome public fear of the unknown and create public support for sustainable development.

Nataliia Bolkhovska,
Project initiator and head of the Vinnytsia Press Club
«Unfortunately, the lack of accessible and understandable knowledge in the RES sector for the media, the lack of expert communicators with a language of communication understandable to the media and, consequently, to the population are the factors, which make it impossible to educate Ukrainians on the development of an energy-efficient country. In order to overcome this, we have developed an educational course for media representatives. Thus, we are planning to achieve significant results - a substantial increase in the quantity and quality of content on the topic of energy transition, including energy efficiency and renewable energy. We work with those who have an impact on thousands of other people. By helping to understand better the essence and content of the energy transition, we help them to create qualitative and interesting materials for their readers. That is, it is a win-win strategy, when everyone receives personal benefits and works for a positive result for the country as a whole».

Mitia Khopta,
Creative Producer of «Light Energy», Editor-in-Chief of Solar Abilities
«Putting complex things in bright and understandable language is always a challenge. To excite the curiosity of the viewers and convey important information to them is a tool that must be mastered in today's world full of information and content. Working on the popular science series «Light Energy», our team collected and processed a large amount of information, filmed several hundred hours of videos throughout Ukraine, talked to dozens of experts… But most importantly - we were able to turn it into an interesting and understandable video product. When colleagues from the Vinnytsia Press Club invited us to make video lectures for their educational program, we gladly accepted the offer. At the same time, we faced a new challenge - to compress a huge amount of information into four 10-minute lectures. Working with this project was a stimulus for us and inspired us to start working on a sequel to the popular science film «Light Energy». It will be dedicated to the stories of specific people who contributed to Ukraine's energy transition. After all, any business, any country is first of all people. They definitely deserve to have their inspiring stories narrated».

Yevhen Didichenko,
Development Director of KNESS Group
«Educational projects are an integral part of progress and development. Therefore, I believe that every professional should find the time and opportunity to participate in such projects. Moreover, the company's success depends on its ability to invest not only in RnD and new equipment, but also in educational projects as well. Our Group has been doing this since its establishment, and we believe that this is one of the factors that enables us to be an industry leader and move forward. And for me personally, participation in such projects is also an opportunity to rethink what has been done and present complex professional things in a simple and interesting way».