The GB energy system is designed to meet the energy demand of consumers, whether they are domestic, commercial or industrial users. Regardless of the level or timing of demand, the system is designed to ensure there is always sufficient supply available to meet it. This practice dates back to the post war years when the desire was to maximise energy output to keep pace with growing demand, to support economic growth. This supply-oriented focus has changed little since then, despite the then monopoly state owned system being privatised and liberalised. It has led to a GB energy system that is highly centralised (but siloed) across electricity, heat and transport. Energy moves in one direction from production through to consumption and policy and wider governance has become dominated by supply side thinking. It has also led to consumers that are for the most part, especially for smaller energy users, passive and disengaged from energy. The energy system is now undergoing rapid and profound change, due to a range of different drivers from technology and ICT developments through to new business models and social practices. The latest Energy & Climate Change Committee report on low carbon infrastructure highlighted how significant quantities of generation, such as small-scale solar and wind, are connecting to the distribution networks. These forms of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) are part of wider range of options that include demand reduction, demand side resources, and storage, many on the customer side of the meter. Despite all sorts of barriers to development, there are also new entrants in the market, including local authorities and companies offering a range of services, including aggregation, virtual power plants/markets, etc, and there has been a growth in community energy schemes and investment in in small and large renewable energy schemes by individuals. Our governance approach in GB still seems to view consumers as passive takers of energy. It is time that was rethought so that both GB and (all) customers can capture the benefits or system change and avoid unnecessary disruption.
IGov 8th July 2016 read more »