The prospects from the UN's most recent climate report are bleak. There are less than two decades until the point of no return for the planet's climate, and the leaders of major countries seem to be retracting political willingness to fix the existential threat.
But, the roadblocks might not be as daunting as they first appear. Shuli Goodman, executive director of the newly created LF Energy group, hopes to fundamentally transform the way energy is distributed, reduce waste, and build new models that could be scaled out with an open source framework.
LF Energy was founded earlier this year out of the Linux Foundation, and aims to accelerate a transition to smarter and renewable energy by taking advantage of the rate of change and momentum that open source offers.
"The issue is that you have a lot of proprietary code," says Goodman. "There's an extremely centralised unidirectional generation of energy - coal fire generation, high voltage transmission of a steady current, and then going to buildings - and electricity in that context is either on or off.
"The process of transmitting loses 40 to 60 percent of the current, actually lost in transmission, because they're very old systems that have not really updated their model for how they are managing current fluctuations."
LF Energy is promoting a decentralised, variable model as opposed to the old centralised systems. Variable energy refers to sources that could generate varying amounts of energy depending on weather conditions - for example, solar and wind - and the hope of the organisation is that it builds tools that can smartly handle a decentralised energy network to reduce that 40-60 percent rate of wastage.
"We have to get to 40 percent in 12 years and by the middle of the century we need to get up to 100 percent," says Goodman, adding that up to 94 percent of carbon reduction could be achieved by transitioning to renewable energy and electric mobility.
"In some ways we are moving much more to an orchestration model like you would see in telecommunications, where you are really looking at how do you use electricity in a more efficient way," she adds.
Although she acknowledges that there will be fossil fuel interests that would work against the creation of such a system, Goodman also argues that there's a clear business case that even "a despot" couldn't ignore.
"Fundamentally energy is at the foundation of our economic systems, and so if your inputs into production are more expensive than the inputs from renewable energy or other energy sources, or if you're able to use it more efficiently, then the systems are going to switch," she says. "In an economic sense, the definition of innovation is the capacity to do more with less, so we are moving towards figuring out how to do more with less. That becomes the input for the economic system.
"The truth is with renewable energy, after capital investment, it's free."
The project is at an early stage and Goodman is primarily targeting the enterprise layer. Relatively speaking, there are so few operators out there that convincing a handful of them could translate to a big win for smarter energy.
There are just fifteen transmission system operators in the world carrying 70 percent of the current, Goodman says, so if the group is able to create "resiliency and flexibility" in a "relatively rigid, centralised system" for on-boarding renewables it only needs to go after a small number of organisations.
And there is some early interest - not least because of security. National critical systems such as electric grids were built quite some time ago - and with a proprietary model. Combine this with recent cyber attacks on national grids, such as in Ukraine, and security is a concern for operators and governments.
One of the clear benefits of open source is that the code is transparent.
"I think the question becomes, should security be handled by a proprietary company which says 'oh yeah, it's secure' or is it better to have that all eyes on the prize collective approach," says Goodman. "I personally feel that this is our global infrastructure, atmosphere knows no boundaries, and we're going to have to work together."
Recently, RTE - the French public utility and subsidiary to EdF - won the tender for a Europe-wide coordination platform, which Goodman says will coordinate all 43 transmission system operators on the continent.
The open source platform, called 'Let's Coordinate', is part of the Linux Foundation. "I suspect as that application gets built out, people will become increasingly aware of 'oh, this actually makes a lot of sense'," Goodman says.
To return to the telecommunications analogy, there is also an opportunity to create smarter open source energy management in the developing world.
"There's a tremendous opportunity to leapfrog over a hard-wired grid but to be able to have energy do things that right now keep people in intractable poverty," she says. "If you had to spend your whole day going and getting a gallon of water two miles away and walking that gallon of water back, how are you going to grow anything? You have members of a family who spend their whole day just moving water around as opposed to having a pump, using a little solar pump to move the water, and then all of a sudden it can change agriculture.
"I think what the Linux Foundation is particularly skilful at is creating pre-competitive environments, so if there is a need for sustainability and if there is a need for sustainable agriculture, water and energy are central components of that.
"Right now there is only proprietary solutions - there are some open source solutions but they're not necessarily supported and there's not a de facto standard. So what I'd like to see happen in the next five years is we get to a de facto standard, there's interoperability, commodity parts, things that will drive the prices down so we really can move towards sustainable agriculture... A billion of the people on this planet are subsistence farmers and underneath that are all these people who are just living in abject poverty.
"I think Buckminster Fuller said: 'if you want to solve the problem of poverty you have to free energy'. Not that energy has to be free but that you have to free it. For me that's a very fascinating idea..."