Realization of LENR benefits as indicated by the levels of evidence could mean that it could be widely deployed as an energy source. The window of time before deployment provides the opportunity to develop proactive policies to deal with adverse secondary impacts. Technology assessment (TA) provides a well-established framework for identifying these impacts and developing measures for mitigation.
TA involves evaluation of the adverse secondary impacts of a technology on existing infrastructure (direct impacts) and on society more generally (indirect impacts). TA methods have been described by several authors. TAs may be conducted by interested parties with sufficient resources and are often performed by public agencies having responsibility for broad public interests. The TA sequence for identifying and mitigating adverse impacts of new technologies consists generally of the following steps:
1. Describe the technology
2. Identify the potential secondary impacts, using quantitative measures where feasible
3. Determine the parties adversely affected by the new technology
4. Identify the available institutions and infrastructure for mitigation
5. Engage representatives of the parties at interest
6. Delineate mitigation measures for the identified impacts
7. Prepare proactive plan that involves both the affected entities and mitigation infrastructure
8. Implement the mitigation plan proactively in advance of deployment of the technology
Because TAs are complex, they are frequently performed by multidisciplinary teams. Rather than following a rigid method, they often utilize a methodological framework within which a particular technology and set of circumstances are evaluated.
TA has been deemphasized in the U.S. in recent years, but it continues to be employed in several European nations. In response to criticisms of lack of public input in the TA process, many countries have adopted modifications such as “Participatory TA”.
LENR Secondary Impacts
Broad deployment of LENR as a major energy source will likely have significant direct impacts on the world energy infrastructure and indirect impacts on the components of society most closely tied to that infrastructure. It has the potential to be deployed in a dispersed manner (e.g., small units for individual homes) or in a centralized configuration, such as in industrial facilities or power plants.
Direct impacts on the infrastructure would include all components and phases of energy use – supply, transport, storage, and consumption. Christiansen has characterized new technologies that rapidly displace existing solutions and cause rapid market changes as “disruptive technologies”. Subsequently the term was updated to “disruptive innovation”, recognizing that changes in business models enabled by new technologies are the main cause of disruption. LENR deployment seems likely to affect energy industries and organizations worldwide in ways described by Christensen as disruptive innovation.
Indirect impacts of LENR deployment on social systems may also be expected to be large and far-reaching. For example, workforces engaged in energy industries may have to be retrained and new jobs found or created. Communities that are closely tied to energy-related activities may need to make adjustments in their economic foundations. Governmental entities that rely heavily on taxes from the energy industries may have to find other revenue sources. Major geopolitical shifts may also be expected because of reduced reliance on fossil fuels. Prices for energy may drop as LENR energy becomes available. Nations having the technology may have economic, national security, and other advantages over other countries. The balance of world power may shift in favor of nations where LENR becomes widely available.
Impact Mitigation through Technology Assessment
The pace of LENR development, degree of market success, and resulting rate of deployment are likely to determine how TA is applied to address adverse secondary impacts. A phased approach may therefore be needed so that the timing and level of effort can be matched to the rate of deployment and associated impacts. A policy strategy and step-by-step plan would then be developed in Phase 1 and implemented in Phase 2. The second phase would comprise the policies, programs, and entities required to mitigate the identified direct and indirect impacts. Application of TA to deal with LENR secondary impacts, for example, would include several well-defined steps in Phase 1.