UK: Change of mindset needed to enable decentralised energy to flourish

Date: 27/01/2015

The Director of the Association for Decentralised Energy has used the launch of a new report midweek to describe the extent of opportunity available for energy efficiency technologies in the UK over the next decade.

But Dr Tim Rotheray was also keen to impress the audience at the launch of the Invisible Energy: Hidden Benefits of the demand side report in Westminster that a substantial change in society’s mindset will be needed if the potential of the sector is to be realized.

He told stakeholders that in the last 35 years, while the UK economy has doubled, all sectors of industry are using less energy, which has been achieved by reducing demand and generating energy locally and more efficiently.

“Today’s launch is about enabling local solutions like combined heat and power, district heat networks, demand response and demand reduction to fulfil their full potential. Putting the user at the heart of the energy system and enabling them to deliver a secure, cost-effective and low-carbon system.”

“The report that we publish today highlights the value of what happens at the local level. £37bn pounds a year of avoided energy costs to consumers. 14 power stations that we haven’t had to build and the amount of carbon savings are equivalent to the amount of carbon that’s absorbed by one third of the Amazon rainforest every single year. British industry produces twice as much as it did in 1980 with the same amount of energy.”

Decentralised energy and the demand side are really delivering but the future potential is also huge. In the next five years £5.6bn of future energy bills can be saved and enough power every year to run the Tube for 30 years.”

Rotheray called for a more enlightened approach to policy in the area to better enable users to invest and provide solutions. Too often he said those in charge of energy sector policy have started with energy production and worked away down to the user at the end.

“The policy framework often struggles with a centralized design for a decentralised system. It creates very complex space for the user as policies don’t integrate well or align with the user’s needs.”

Among the catalogue of statistics contained in the report, the sheer wastage involved in energy use indicated the degree of opportunity to be capitalized.

“84 per cent of energy is lost before it reaches its final use. Almost all of our efficiency policy focuses on the remaining 16 per cent. We need for the energy secretary’s department to see if efficiency policy can concentrate on all of the energy use.”

“This is not an easy transition- it needs a change in the way we think about energy. Many of you in this room, parliamentarians, the industry and users have continued to promote the value of making this transition.”

In his speech, Energy Secretary Ed Davey pointed to the Renewable Heat Incentive and the work of the Heat Network Deployment Unit, set up under his watch, as helping to accelerate progress in the sector, but admitted much more needed to be done.

“Clearly there is a lot more for us to do on the demand side. But I am particularly proud of our heat delivery unit, which is supporting 91 different local authorities delivering heat network feasibility studies.”

Davey concluded by telling the gathering that his agents had initially left heat out of the equation, when charged with stimulating network investment. They had done so for electricity and gas networks but the oversight had since been rectified, with the document re-written.

“We want a thousand flowers to bloom in the approach we are taking to produce the innovative technologies we need and see how it can be implemented. I think this is a very rich sector over the next few years, its good news for investors and good news for the country.”

Source: COSPP