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Small is Better: The Benefits of Granularity in Energy Technologies


Granular energy technologies are small in size, low in cost, many in number, and distributed in application. Granularity tends to be more a characteristic of energy end-use technologies (appliances, vehicles, air conditioners), but granular energy-supply technologies include solar modules and wind turbines. Drawing on a wide range of new data and analysis, we find that granularity offers many potential benefits including lower adoption effort and risk, more rapid learning potentials, and a more equitable distribution. These results are generalisable, drawing on a wide range of technologies and applications in a variety of contexts. However, the benefits of granularity also rely on standardization and replication to capture positive innovation and diffusion outcomes. We conclude that granularity is an effective meta-strategy for rapid emission reductions and universal access to modern energy services in line with global climate and development goals.


Dr Charlie Wilson is a researcher in energy and climate change with the Tyndall Centre at the University of East Anglia. His research is focused on low carbon innovation and energy system transformation.