Getting closer: challenges and opportunities for decentralised energy in the UK

Patrick Cousens

Associate Director - Head of Energy and Sustainability

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Last week PLMR hosted a breakfast event for our clients and contacts in the energy sector, focusing on the challenges and opportunities presented by the growing decentralisation of the energy system.

We were delighted to be joined by Steve Holliday, the former CEO of the National Grid, Eric Brown, the Head of Innovation at Energy Systems Catapult, and the Guardian’s Energy Correspondent Adam Vaughan – along with a host of sector leaders representing a wide range of generation technologies and infrastructure providers.

The conversation itself had a huge amount of energy, moving at rapid pace and covering a significant amount of ground in just under 90 minutes. Topics included the way in which decentralised energy networks play into the present political environment of increased devolution and localism, what models of governance were appropriate for a sector that is increasingly complex and fast-paced with a growing number of participants, and who pays what and when for upgrading and greening critical transmission infrastructure that is still relied upon today, despite its role diminishing as generation assets move closer to people’s homes (or indeed within them, for example with a domestic solar panel and battery combination).

Attendees noted that demand-side response technologies and battery storage look set to play a substantial role in the future of electricity provision – although attention was also drawn to the relative lack of progress on decarbonising heat and transport in comparison.

There was broad agreement among participants that centralised, baseload generation has largely had its day – a sentiment that was reinforced last week with the news that Centrica, the owner of British Gas, is selling two of its largest gas power plants as it refocuses its business towards smaller, community level assets.

The conversation also moved to cyber-security in the new energy system, spawning an article in this week’s Guardian newspaper covering Steve Holliday’s comments on the topic.

Overall, a fascinating morning that yielded real insights and provided genuine value for attendees. Here’s to the next one.
Further reading:

https://knowledge.energyinst.org/barometer
https://www.worldenergy.org/data/issues/
https://es.catapult.org.uk/fpsa2report/

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