Cogeneration has returned as a viable technology in North America and it was the industrial energy consumer who brought cogeneration back from the dead. Pulp and paper, manufacturing, oil sands operations all found that given their demands for heat that cogeneration made a heck of a lot of sense.
The transmission grid remains the inflexible behemoth it was 50 years ago. The central idea of distributed generation -- where nimble, low-cost generators generate electricity where you need it -- is the equivalent of going from mainframe computer that takes up half a building to an iPad.
Ecologist Peter Marshall put it best: "Waste itself is a human concept; everything in nature is eventually used." Head to a forest and see if you can spot any waste. Fungi are breaking down the dead trees, the leaf litter on the forest floor retains moisture and protects the soil from the sun. As a species, we're cottoning on the fact that what we consider waste is often a valuable resource.