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Industry opinion Balancing act

As well as achieving carbon reduction targets, we need an affordable vision for our energy future, explains David Smith, chief executive of Energy Networks Association


ddressing the challenges of energy and climate change is undoubtedly one of the most signifi cant the UK faces. Over the past year, we’ve seen a change of government in the UK, the challenges

of economic recovery persist and the implications of more austere times starting to become clear. Finding a solution to a secure, sustainable and affordable energy future for the UK is in the interests of government, industry and consumers – that is why creating the right balance and mix is crucial. The government has embarked on a ‘once in a generation’

review of the electricity market. This will lead to a White Paper and subsequent further legislation that, if their ambition is achieved, will set energy policy for governments to come. With the energy market reform, the roll out of smart meters and the need to cater for a more diverse energy mix, Energy Networks Association (ENA) and our members remain at the heart of things.

effi ciency and usage of the energy they generate, and all these new technologies carry with them an element of risk. These are not risks to be feared, but issues that need to be managed.

Nuclear option The situation with the nuclear power plants at Fukushima in Japan has caused some to question the role new nuclear will play in the future. With this need for a balance in the mix, the part nuclear has will need to be carefully thought through. Whatever comes of reviews and discussions on this issue, with rising demand for energy, it is important to realise that a future without new nuclear presents signifi cant challenges. These varied challenges we face all point to a clear

It is important to realise that a

Right mix Every minister in the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has emphasised the need for a balanced energy mix, not putting all our eggs in one basket and spreading investment to best effect so as not to close the door on options that are currently open to us. The Green Deal and Feed-in Tariffs are just two examples of where allowing diverse use of funds can deliver social, environmental and economic successes. This isn’t just for the benefi t of good politics; it’s about ensuring we give ourselves the fl exibility to adapt as we analyse what works best for the country. Speaking in March, Secretary of State Chris Huhne said: ‘It is better to make the right decision slowly than the wrong decision quickly.’ Renewable generation, such a solar panels, wind turbines

future without new nuclear presents signifi cant challenges

role for gas in our energy future, both as a means of heat and generation. Gas is the cleanest fossil fuel, and new technologies such as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and the injection of biomethane will further improve the ability to retain this capacity whilst meeting climate change targets. The real jewel in the crown of our low carbon energy future will be ‘smarter’

About the author

and tidal barriers, are all key parts of the mix, but there remains a need to store capacity on the network to ensure that the peaks of energy usage can be catered for when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. These important pathways to a low carbon future are not without complications. They require new technology and improved

David Smith David Smith is chief executive of Energy Networks Association (ENA). ENA represents the electricity and gas transmission and distribution network operators in the UK and Ireland, from major international companies to independent network operators.

networks. Through the creation of a ‘smart grid’, networks will be able to connect renewables of all sizes – from a solar panel on a roof to a wind farm on a hillside – and improve the effi ciency, performance and security of energy supply. The network companies will increasingly come into contact with energy consumers. Initially, this will be through the roll out of smart meters. But beyond this, a world of new relationships between networks and customers opens up. This is not about the spy in the fridge. It is about the

public being empowered to manage energy resources more effi ciently and more effectively. ‘Smart’ means power, quite literally, in the hands of the consumer. It is absolutely right that we fi nd a way to reduce our

carbon emissions and boost our use of renewables, and it is furthermore essential that to drive this we set aggressive targets, both here and in the EU. However, these targets don’t sit in isolation and, in implementing them, an affordable vision is necessary.

May 2011 ECA Today 17

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