However, energy storage and distribution solutions are becoming increasingly urgent. Storing energy locally that buildings produce for later use will eventually be far more efficient than feeding it into the grid and using the grid as the energy store. There are plenty of options but none is perfect. Batteries are improving every year, with the most likely grid-scale option being liquid metal batteries, which are still at the prototype stage. Using the energy to compress air or steam, which can then be released and converted to electricity is another option. Others are looking at using energy to split water, creating hydrogen for storage, which can then be burned as a fuel when needed. Another option is to store the energy in the fast spin of a friction-free flywheel – the energy is then accessed by using the flywheel to turn a rotor in an electric generator, which slows the wheel.
In the Anthropocene, people will also have to curb the use of energy-guzzling electronics, or use renewable recharging methods – in Britain alone, electricity consumption from domestic appliances has doubled since the 1970s. Quick fixes, such as fitting low-energy lighting (20% of a building’s energy is consumed through lighting), and improving insulation are likely to become mandatory through policy tweaks to building regulations and property sales and rental codes. These are small steps, but we may see the day when all new buildings must be self-sufficient energy generators, with scores of neighbourhood grids running cooperatively in a networked city grid.