Our energy system is in the middle of a major transition as we respond to the unfolding climate crisis:
- It has become more decentralised with many small generators, rather than a few large fossil fuel powered ones ones.
- Growing electricity demand from appliances will be further increased by electric heating and electric vehicle charging.
- Installation of renewable energy needs to accelerate to meet carbon reduction targets.
- Due to the variable nature of the weather, renewable sources are intermittent.
- It is getting harder to balance energy supply and demand, especially at peak times, as decentralised renewable generation is a lot harder to control.
- To meet peak demand power generation is often ramped up by using the most carbon intensive and expensive fuels.
- Costly upgrades to the electricity network will be required with greater environmental and resource impact, as well as financial consequences for consumers, if demand is not managed effectively.
- We need to consider when we use electricity, as well as how much we use, to minimise carbon emissions and expensive and resource intensive manufacture and installation of new technology. Shifting when you use electrical appliances from 8pm in the evening to 2pm in the afternoon can cut carbon emissions by up to 50%.
A big factor in how we bring about the energy transition to effectively meet our climate change targets will be how far we, as households and organisations, change the way we use energy and what the best mechanisms are for achieving this e.g:
- Smart technology, which we are exploring in our Flex Community Project
- Pricing mechanisms such as Time Of Use tariffs
- Promotional campaigns and collective behaviour change in communities
More information on the energy transition:
- Western Power Distribution have produced a series of short videos to explain some of these issues.
- Ofgem have produced a short video and information on how to make our electricity system more flexible to better balance supply and demand.
- If you have the time this talk on ‘People and energy – a relationship in transition’ given by Louise Kingham, Chief Executive of the Energy Institute at the University of Bath in November 2018 is a great introduction to how our energy system is changing.