Responding to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd’s speech on a new direction for the UK’s energy policy, Professor Phil Taylor, Professor of Electrical Power Systems and Director of the Institute for Sustainability at Newcastle University, comments:
“There is much to be welcomed in today’s Government announcement on energy policy, however gaps still exist in terms of a real transition to a low carbon future. Whilst it is positive to see that the Government is moving away from the high polluting coal-based model that has formed the basis of the UK’s energy provision to date, it is essential that investment is now made in a sustainable, modern infrastructure, to tackle the inefficiencies in our energy sector and reduce energy usage.
Security of renewable sources
“Security of supply is vital, but we should not neglect the part renewable energy must play in achieving a long-term, integrated low carbon energy transition plan: we still have a commitment to deliver 15 % of energy through renewables by 2020. The recent downgrading of the UK’s rating from AAA to AAB by the World Energy Council shows the uncertainty around the Government’s progress in shaping a long-term, sustainable energy policy. Gas and nuclear should play a part in this, but more emphasis needs to be placed on renewable sources of energy, not just a tentative nod to off-shore wind.
“Whilst concerns have been raised about how secure renewable sources can be, there has been a failure to recognise the huge benefits electrical energy storage (EES) could bring. Capturing energy from renewable technology – biomass, wind or solar for example – would enable stored energy to be sold back to the grid at times of greatest demand as well as providing localised balancing services to alleviate distribution network congestion. Whilst it is right we need to play a key role in shaping the decarbonisation of the global economy, we should not shy away from taking a lead domestically on this matter.
“It is extremely encouraging to at last see the Government recognise the crucial part that smart metering can play in bringing about efficiencies in our energy usage. Through our research at the Institute for Sustainability, we have shown that efficiencies could be met partly through smart grid technologies, such as demand-side response, which can help people reduce their carbon footprint and save on their energy bills. We welcome the inclusion of this technology as an integral part of the Government’s future plans for energy efficiency, and hope more will be done to adopt it across the country.
“The Government has acknowledged some key elements of energy policy that must be integral to any future, sustainable low-carbon transition plan. However, as is often the case, it has shied away from any concrete commitment to invest, leaving this once again to market forces to drive forward. The UK energy market has been made overly complicated by a fragmented energy industry that separates generation from storage, distribution and supply. In the future, countries that decarbonise the most rapidly will be most attractive for inward investment. It’s collaborative planning with pre-emptive investment that is required to secure the UK’s energy future and today’s announcement might not be enough to guarantee that.”
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