I considered calling this “The end of the world is nigh” but another sip of Spitfire Ale persuaded me otherwise…
Leaving aside what’s going on in North Korea, this has been an interesting week which is surely one of those key moments when it’s good to reflect on exactly where we are (from an energy perspective at least!).
The announcement of another general election is surely about an affirmation from the electorate, of all political colours, around taking back control – or not – from the EU and using democracy to improve the wider British people. We shall (eventually) see how this one pans out.
In the meantime, reflection on where we are. What do we see happening in the energy world?
Renewable energy for a start – Well, the proportions of renewable energy to total have improved immensely over the last 10 years. Remarkable given the reductions of subsidies which started out at ridiculously high levels and have since dwindled. A tick in the box for subsidising at government level to provide commercial stimulus to establish technologies which is subsequently reduced once economies of scale from mass production are realised – solar PV a specific example.
For the record, I’ve been a huge enthusiast of renewable energy in all it’s forms, having advocated take-up by the agricultural sector for many years as a mitigator of EU and market follies on commercial operation of farms. Farmers have been major drivers, outside the energy supply companies, of some fantastic renewable energy schemes.
Energy security – Perversely linked to the above. Whilst intermittency is a severe management problem, the very fact the UK can produce so much renewable energy, helped by many, many small schemes, has mitigated the risk of geopolitical factors, of which there is an increasing number.
Technology improvement has been immense over the last 10 years in affecting energy demand reductions. Notably the development of massively improved lighting systems hand in hand with stringent control regimes. These were unforeseen only a few years ago. Storage of energy has come a long way but is still viewed as costly compared to primary generation but here’s hoping the trend continues to improve. And there are endless examples of everyday products such as TVs, washing machines & other white goods, which use of fraction of past energy consumption figures.
Awareness of the need for energy efficiency both at home and in industry and commerce has been hammered home remorselessly for many years, almost to the point of resistance. But largely beneficial and ongoing has been the use of more efficient products and practices which have largely counterbalanced any attitudinal problems!
Embedded practices – The removal from the housing and commercial property stock of those buildings with poor or non-existent energy efficiency has been a significant factor as has better design, materials and architectural awareness and application in improving marginal delivery of many new builds and refurbishments.
Professional approaches – It’s fair to say that the way energy is managed now is very different and measurably better, than 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Better technology has resulted in better controls, metering, measurement; better training has resulted in those responsible taking a management, as well as the traditional technical, viewpoint and this has resulted in better traction with the “Cs” in securing finance for more and bigger schemes.
All this against a backdrop of low and disincentivising energy prices and a desperate lack of Government policy in many areas.
So a great time to be cheerful about what has gone before and a great time to review what can be done even better!
Mervyn Bowden is the MD of Intuitive Energy Solutions.