I had a fascinating meeting this afternoon with Shann Turnbull, Robin Murray, Sion Whellens and the team from the New Economics Foundation about ideas on linking currencies with energy.
Around the same time, the Prime Minister held his Summit with big energy companies, I was hearing about the ‘kiwah’, operating in Amsterdam. This operates as a currency used locally whose value is tied to renewable energy co-operatives. The name stands for kilowatt / hours.
There has long been talk of complementary currencies and in ways some of the traditional cooperative milk tokens fit into that history. But there appears to be some rapid innovation and growth – perhaps fuelled by economic austerity (the Depression was a time of similar innovation and ferment), perhaps by Eurozone weaknesses (new local currencies and barter re-emerging in Greece) perhaps by thinking on sustainability and how renewable energy can underpin economic activity.
Brixton has just launched a electronic version of it’s local currency and I understand that Bristol credit union may do the same later this year.
Energy is clearly vital to pretty much the entire landscape of economic life. Alongside this meeting I met the Paris-based team at the visionary 40 Foundation who are renewing the ideas of an early twentieth century Nobel Prize winner, Frederick Soddy. The argument is simple – that we should understand, account for and align economic and energy flows in a more direct way than treating the market price of energy borrowed from the future as our measure of sustainability.
The price of energy is one to watch, but more important still is its true cost.