This thought piece references the recent conclusions and recommendations of the House of Commons, Low Carbon Network Infrastructure – Energy and Climate Change Committee

For further details see the Low carbon network infrastructure inquiry

In reviewing the recent conclusions and recommendations of the House of Commons, Low Carbon Network Infrastructure – Energy and Climate Change Committee, I am left with the view of our approach to future energy solutions being something of a lottery.   Of course the benefit of this landscape presenting a lottery opportunity, is the potential for winners to emerge.   The other side of this lottery view – is however – almost unthinkable!

My initial thoughts upon reading the conclusions and recommendations are:

6- Smart Grids – the slow roll out of smart meters cannot be a surprise, without a compulsory time bound requirement – this activity was destined to be so!

7 – Gas and Heat Networks – it is encouraging to see the drive target setting for bio methane and hydrogen, both of which offer potential new dimensions for the integration of energy vectors including heat and low carbon transport.

10& 11 – Storage – the storage observations are critical, presently there is no real imperative for network companies to be considering storage, as such, market based service solutions would seem the appropriate model to de-risk incremental technology advancement, this should be with the technology providers.   Many technology providers (there is a long list) are searching out market opportunity, to either fine tune the later stages of their technology or deploy their solutions in emerging market environments.   The classic environment currently under consideration being that of a hybrid solution in conjunction with renewable sources.   The first mover leadership play here for a generator, network company or technology provider is on the cusp.   The players are all watching…..but who will be first to move?    As an aside, our facility is presently testing two storage solutions, we have also had a number of enquiries from international sources all of whom are looking for a market opportunity.   Is the market opportunity DECC or Ofgem originated? Or is it something that can be achieved by leaders within the existing market framework?   The technology is in the higher levels of TRL and could be a game changer – but – can pace be achieved?

13 – Interconnection – Great Britain is likely to be a net importer of electricity – this is quite an endorsement! , with our renewable sources, our technical prowess, are we missing something here!? – is this a risk our national engineering and business leader community are content to accept

14 – Innovation – Innovation has been greatly stimulated through Ofgem’s last two price reviews – the deployment and  implementation of solutions perhaps needs further market stimulus and leadership from network operators both with an understanding of learning from failure, potentially through ground -breaking market models, linked with DSO or community energy arrangements.   In any event, the UK community has the opportunity to be a global leader in this area.   It requires an understanding that innovation can’t be procurement led and that the entire TRL spectrum needs investment if benefits are to be sustainable.   Procurement led and high end TRL level focus will lead to short term, “me too” style benefits.   As a nation we are simply better than that!   Moreover in this globalised world we simply need to be at the leading edge in this area.

15 & 16 – System Operation – DNO’s are the natural inception point for DSO’s.    There is a need for rapid consideration of sub-licenced DSO’s to enable; community, town, city and regional arrangements.   Enabling a DSO at the lowest sensible level for managing supply/demand balance would seem the natural evolution.   There are examples internationally which echo this approach, it also reduces the fear of new monopoly activity emerging.

19 – Flexible Policy for a Flexible Energy System – The comment on pace with respect to having a clear roadmap for the future energy providers to our nation, puts a huge onus on government – one which it will not be able to address in its own right.   An opportunity very much rests with the sector to lead the way with the application of technology to new market opportunities.   This requires leadership on the part of industry players, who have the confidence to act, and shape the markets, in line with the direction of travel towards the low carbon economy.   Without this leadership we are destined for a “me too” pattern of development, continually looking for the answer from a third party.