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Recent National Grid forecasts have predicted spare system capacity this winter to be as low as just 1.2%. Peter Rolton, Chairman of the engineering consultancy Rolton Group, explains the need for decentralised energy systems and a greater focus on efficiency for the sustainability of UK businesses.

For too long now we’ve suffered at the hands of a succession of governments who have failed to invest in the UK’s power infrastructure, and this has resulted in a genuine fear that the lights could go out this winter if one major energy supplier were to fail. A spare capacity of 1.2% means that even the slightest surge in energy demand could jeopardise the lighting, heating and power of both commercial and residential properties as the nights draw in and temperatures begin to plummet.




This is a horrendous thought for households across Britain, but for businesses no power means no work, which could be catastrophic for the UK economy. With this in mind it is a real mystery as to why the issue has been so often swept aside by authorities.

As a result of this, businesses should start attempting to avert the risk of blackouts and brownouts by seeking alternative ways to source their energy; increasing reliability and efficiency of the energy supply while keeping their costs down.

One of these alternative methods is to set up decentralised networks


to generate local energy. This new network can be assembled around local resources, such as expansive fields for wind turbines and light- exposed buildings for installation of solar panels. By generating and consuming local energy, businesses can save money and increase efficiency by reducing the amount of energy lost during transmission across the system.

Technology can also be used to install sustainable power plants that can produce the heat and electricity to power homes and buildings. Instead of producing electricity and releasing heat into the atmosphere, as has traditionally happened, newer Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems can capture the generated heat and use it to warm up business offices, factories and houses. This is far more efficient because by- products of power generation can be used as an asset rather than simply discarded, and it is also friendlier to the environment due to the reduction of gases that are released into the atmosphere.

As well as benefits in reducing the strain on energy generation and the environment at large, self- generation of energy by businesses can provide them with financial incentives. By reducing its carbon footprint, an organisation can avoid government levies and even generate revenues from neighbouring companies and third parties by selling-on excess power that they

have created but do not need. Thus a decentralised approach can not only improve efficiency and help the environment, but also bring in extra income for organisations.

This competitive advantage and commitment to green energy generation will please shareholders and investors by displaying corporate social responsibility initiatives. The initial outlay in implementing decentralised energy flows more than reaps its rewards in the long- term both through financial savings and environmental benefits.

Conversely, the government must take a hard stance on companies who do not attempt to put into place any of the above. Financially penalising businesses and individuals who use excess energy from the Grid may not be enough to deter them from their normal activities; instead they should be advised by industry experts, local councils and policymakers on how they can make changes to their consumption habits.

A grave shortage in National Grid spare capacity this winter will have thousands on tenterhooks in the coming months, and this will continue unless they reduce their dependence on a central energy network. It is inevitable that an unfortunate few across the country will be left without power this winter due to a lack of electricity, and that is a nothing short of a national embarrassment for such a rich economy.

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