The Alternative Energy Megatrend

‘The Alternative Energy Megatrend: A Global Security Discourse in the Universally-Securitized World’, a project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

alternative-energy-megatrendThis is not one more alternative energy study. Dr. Alexander Mirtchev’s provocative new book The Alternative Energy Megatrend: A Global Security Discourse in the Universally Securitized World is a prescient assessment of the security trajectory of a yet to be fully understood global modern phenomenon: the ascent of alternative energy-related developments as a socio-political and techno-economic Megatrend. Through the prism of this Megatrend the study examines the new approaches toward analyzing and dealing with the modern and upcoming global security challenges.

The study endeavors to address the following major questions:

  • • Why and how have contemporary alternative energy developments transformed into one of the 21st century global socio-political and techno-economic megatrends?
  • • How has the world become universally securitized, with security becoming virtually a universally-applicable consideration of society and political agents, and why does that compel new approaches toward national security prioritization?
  • • What are the projected security implications of this alternative energy megatrend, and what do they reveal about upcoming global security discourses in the areas of geopolitics, energy, defense, the environment and the economy?

This Megatrend’s emergence has been defined by the confluence of a historical build-up, socio-political and socio-economic practices, conditions and concepts that have achieved critical mass under the transformative influences of the post-Cold War paradigm shift in the context of globalization. It is propelled by a set of converging and interdependent drivers that together form more than the sum of the parts and actually comprise the Megatrend itself. The most important among these socio-political and techno-economic drivers are: energy demand; environmental concerns; economic growth imperatives; global, although uneven, technological advances; defense considerations; new forms of empowerment; quasi-ideological impatience with the ‘delayed arrival of the future’; all influenced and simultaneously integrated by alternative energy-associated policies, strategies and regulatory systems.

The Megatrend’s evolvement manifests distinct socio-political and techno-economic attributes that provide for its categorization as a modern megatrend. The most important attributes include: a broad and evolving set of innovative responses to modern and emerging global challenges; a rapidly expanding geographical footprint; continuously broadening socio-political and techno-economic impacts; a self-professed longevity, underwritten by seeming irreversibility, durability and in many cases, infallibility; with all of these attributes firmly based on techno-scientific advances and the global technological revolution, cohering to and amalgamated by an eclectic spectrum of values, aspirations and methods.

The analysis emphasizes the evolution of modern security complexities by introducing the notion of the universally securitized world. The post-Cold War period has gradually adopted numerous security discourses that amount to the phenomenon of universal securitization – the tendency, even necessity, as viewed by different actors, for the consistent broadening of the palette of security referent objects and threats to be addressed. However, trying to securitize “everything” makes securitization virtually meaningless, and as the study points out, brings about the imperative for security prioritization. Thus, the complexities of core – geopolitical, energy and defense – and broader – environmental and economic – 21st century security are analyzed through the prism of modern alternative energy developments.

  • The Megatrend’s elements have become a part of the geopolitical continuum, claiming an effect on the geopolitical equilibrium – the emerging new energy resource map of the world, the perspective of the megatrend on the changing guises of geopolitical actors, etc., accentuated by a wide spectrum of policy developments in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. Thus, the Megatrend’s progression highlights the new facets of the ongoing reshaping of traditional geopolitical divisions, such as those between the Core and Periphery, East and West, North and South, and the altering roles of state and non-state actors in the evolving global security tapestry.
  • Today’s global energy rebalancing is increasingly influenced and made evident by the strengthening visions and practices, associated with the Megatrend. This rebalancing has startling implications for contemporary energy security policies and approaches, challenged by a constantly changing fossil fuel supply and demand paradigm. The Megatrend’s evolvement provides a privileged point of view for the examination of altering geopolitical notions, such as energy imperialism and resource nationalism, the modification of states’ deterrence strategies, geopolitical leverage and bargaining positions. In addition, although not a renewable source of energy, nuclear power in a post-proliferation world can be a telling factor for projecting the challenges to the Megatrend’s future.
  • Defense-related considerations and applications propel alternative energy developments through worldwide defense policies, in particular by the U.S. and NATO, while being impeded by practical hurdles to the integration of renewables into defense practices. The Megatrend emerges as one of a number of modern phenomena that highlight and contribute to the ongoing revamping of defense policies and strategies, from logistics and operational effectiveness to enhanced abilities to project military power swiftly across vast distances.
  • The concept of environmental security is growing in importance in national security agendas, and even though it is yet to become a core security consideration, it is consistently assuming greater weight due to changing societal attitudes and the emergence of powerful constituencies. The Megatrend has become a key element of this concept’s redefinition by staking the bold claim of providing a practical solution to environmental security threats and risks. The options that alternative energy provides for addressing threats to natural habitats are gradually entering environmental security policies, while contending with the under-addressed vulnerabilities of the current technologies. The Megatrend also provides a prism for a new perception of the gradual encroachment by environmental security considerations into international relations agendas, leading to the consistent ‘greening’ of geopolitics.
  • The Megatrend reveals new influences that prompt the evolution of the notion of economic security, and despite the still uncertain economic viability of renewable energy technologies, it can affect economic security strategies and outcomes. The expanding array of economic objects and activities requiring securitization places greater focus on the dominant role of the state, as demonstrated by alternative energy developments, and the balancing contribution that the market can provide in terms of economic security.

The Megatrend may dissipate, as similar historical precedents show, or could continue to grow, but its future would ultimately depend on the overall demand and supply of energy that dictate societal attitudes toward energy consumption and the means of harvesting energy. However, this upcoming evolution will not be decided by purely pragmatic supply-demand dynamics, as human beings rarely act with such cold rationality. Rather, supply and demand calculations will be influenced and shaped by the visions of the future that dominate societal consciousness and drive human endeavors and developments. We do not know what the future holds, but the Megatrend’s progression will be influenced by linear developments, and determined by non-linear breakthroughs. Whatever may occur, where renewables are concerned, it pays to be prepared, as in the process of seeking energy options to complement and even replace fossil fuels, the expected would go hand in hand with the unanticipated.

Wittingly or not, policymakers, economists, social scientists and market makers are instilling this Megatrend and other contemporary trends into forward looking models, but their transformative security connotations and impact are yet to be fully factored in. On the basis of the possibilities of its imminent demise or continued rise, and the respective potential security implications, Dr. Mirtchev’s work proposes several policy areas that deserve greater focus: redefining the dominant role of the state and steadily increasing the reliance on an alternative energy market; democratizing innovation and maintaining open horizons; and, establishing securitization mechanisms for the Megatrend itself. By examining possible approaches to extracting maximum benefits from the Megatrend’s transformative capacity, the study draws conclusions about the new security prioritization necessary in the brave new modern world.

Dr. Mirtchev provides a new perspective on the increasing integration of contemporary developments and trends into an ever broadening scope of security considerations, activities, political interests and societal aspirations. In answering the above questions, this work endeavors to offer a deeper insight into the multifaceted nature of modern security issues, this study aims to:

  • Further public understanding of the global alternative energy Megatrend and other contemporary trends, which may offer new opportunities for policymakers, security strategists and business leaders to achieve better outcomes, manage their contingencies, and prepare for unanticipated ramifications.
  • Provide a greater comprehension of the intricacies of the modern global security tapestry and, ultimately, enhance the accuracy of forecasting of new developments in the third millennium.

This piercing new book about the convergence of alternative energy developments as a magnifying glass for the 21st century security complexities will provide considerable food for thought and is a must-read for anyone interested in geopolitics, international relations, energy, environmental and economic security.