Distributed and digital energy as innovative elements of the fourth energy transition

Regional and branch economy

A narrow view of the modern energy transition as a process of displacing fossil fuels by untraditional energy sources (UES) is the main reason for the de facto prioritization of the inertial scenario of the energy industry functioning. Ignoring energy transition processes leads to long-term negative consequences, including missed opportunities that open during the transition to new innovative models of energy systems. The aim of the study is to identify the main elements of the fourth energy transition, which determine effective innovative directions for the development of energy systems at various levels expanding the definition of “energy transition”. The set of theoretical and methodological research approaches (general provisions of economic theory, market theory, investment, special approaches in the field of theory and methodology of energy efficiency, sustainable development, green economy, externalities theory, innovation management methodology, including in the field of digitalization) is due to the basing on the concept of the Energy Trilemma. It is shown that a distinctive feature of the fourth energy transition is the supporting role of the digitalization element associated with digital and smart control and flexible construction of networks. The development of a digital element in this direction determines the possibility of forming a power system on innovative distributed principles. Development of the digital basis distributed energy results in diversification of energy resources by expanding the possibilities of using UES, as well as secondary energy sources. In addition, it ensures the possibility of independent operation of the energy system if necessary and demonopolizes domestic energy markets. This leads to a decrease in consumer costs, providing both their direct efficiency and the multiplier effect for higher-level economies. Based on the thesis about the decisive role of the elements of decentralization and digitalization in modern transition processes, the paper substantiates the need to shift the focus of research to the development of measures to reform the Russian energy system, taking into account the introduction of innovations in the field of distributed and digital energy. It has been suggested that the development of distributed energy in Russia based on innovative digital principles can become a platform for a smooth energy transition, which makes it possible to realize the opportunities it generates, as well as optimally neutralize the emerging threats.