Steve Holliday: After 15 years at National Grid, including nearly 10 as chief executive, I am stepping down next month from a job I have loved and that has given me an opportunity to play a part in the huge changes in the UK energy sector. When I joined, 80pc of UK electricity was supplied by fossil fuels and just 3pc came from renewables. Fewer than 50 power plants were pretty much all that Britain needed to allow National Grid to run a reliable electricity system. Today, that could not be more different. Last year, those same fossil fuels supplied just 55pc of our electricity, while renewables have surged to 24pc. Thanks to the boom in wind, solar and, to a lesser degree, biomass we now have more than 240 individual generating stations feeding into our transmission grid, and thousands more businesses and households generating power into their local networks. We are in the midst of nothing less than a revolution in the provision of our energy. There are huge and exciting opportunities ahead but I am concerned that their impact has become muddled by misunderstanding. Phrases like “smart”, “off-grid” and “demand side response” mean different things to different people and are at times negatively portrayed. We need to separate fact from fiction. Today 700,000 households already have some sort of energy-generating capacity on site and, with greater efficiency in the way buildings use and store energy, it is increasingly possible for consumers to power themselves.That is a really encouraging development. In the last few years, rooftop solar has nearly trebled to 4.8GW, out of a total solar capacity of 9.5GW, helping Britain meet its energy needs with clean, renewable power.Ultimately the future energy system will be much more flexible than today’s. It doesn’t make sense to keep building an ever larger system just to meet the rare peaks of energy demand. We need flexible networks and the ability to flex unnecessary demand. This will allow a cleaner future that can be cheaper and more efficient. To bring us back to where we started, that is a “smart” future for us all.
Telegraph 20th Feb 2016 read more »