"The Future of UK Energy Systems: Evening Panel Discussion" 21st March 2019


‘The Future of UK Energy Systems’ co-hosted by The Future Economy Network and Smith & Williamson.


On Thursday 21st March 2019, The Future Economy Network hosted an evening event about the future of our energy systems. The event took place at subscribers, S&W’s city centre offices in Bristol with over 40 people in attendance!

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Initial networking drinks and canapes were followed by a welcome from Director of The Future Economy Network, Katherine Piper who highlighted the benefits of subscribing to the Network, shared exciting news about The Future Economy Group’s move to their new carbon neutral sustainability hub, advised of their upcoming Festival of Sustainable Business and introduced new member of the team, Richard Murphy (Director of Recruitment).

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This was followed by independent energy researcher, Nikki Jones giving an overview of UK Energy Policy, highlighting that we are in the midst of an energy revolution and have just 2-5 years to make decisions to stay below 1.5 degrees. Nikki summarised the Clean Growth Plan, stressing the decline in support for hydro, solar and onshore wind and the increase in waste-to-energy and biomass plants. With regards gas production, the UK has been a net importer since 2005 with the government buying into the claim that gas is ‘clean’ and a necessary bridging fuel. Nikki demonstrated that this is far from the case once fugitive emissions are taking into account and indeed, this was the conclusion drawn from the March 2019 High Court ruling with regards fracked gas. Nikki summarised BEIS’ energy policy review which looks at how to 'incentivise low carbon generation' and yet will include gas as well as nuclear, which have detrimental financial and sustainability impacts. This means, Nikki explained, there has to be a really good opportunity - and more support - for more renewables, efficiencies and storage. Nikki concluded her presentation by stressing the impacts and risks associated with breaching our 1.5 degree target.

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We then invited Fabia Jeddere-Fisher, Senior Lecturer at UWE to share her insights from a higher education perspective. Fabia opened by discussing future UK energy scenarios, with particular reference to electric buildings. She highlighted the challenges associated with heat pumps when retrofitting (damp and condensation) along with the opportunities associated with electric vehicle batteries for energy storage. Fabia went on to discuss the lag between building regulations and actual carbon emissions and highlighted the need for informed planning decisions, taking into account whole-life costing. She discussed the future skills that will be required of building designers and ended by acknowledging the demands from students and young people, quoting Greta Thunberg’s call to action, to start acting as if the house is on fire.


Next up, The Future Economy Network welcomed David Tuffery, Network Strategy Engineer for Western Power Distribution (WPD). WPD is responsible for distributing electricity to over 25% of the UK. David spoke about how the electricity system is changing, with more renewables and more complexity due to new low carbon technologies. He discussed the development of WPD’s strategy to enable a transition to a Distribution System Operator (DSO) and drew attention to their Distribution System Operability Framework (DSOF) which highlights some of the technical and commercial challenges associated with a transition from DNO to DSO. WPD also undertake 6-monthly forecasting with regards distributed generation and energy demand and David ran through forecasts relating to electric vehicles, heat pumps and battery storage.

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And last but not least, we welcomed Peter Dennis, Renewable Energy Specialist from Ecotricity. Peter advised that Ecotricity’s Virtual Power Plant is currently in its pilot phase and this smart grid system involves 3 stages; Assess, Qualify and Cascade. For the ‘Assess’ phase, Ecotricity will review what flexibility is available, any time constraints and how to connect up to the system. Following this, the ‘Qualify’ phase looks at grouping similar units, whether that be NIV chasing, frequency response, DNO services or network charges.  The ‘Cascade’ phase looks at the ongoing optimisation of the process, be that short, medium or long term. Peter went on to highlight some local constraints within DNO networks when calling for flex and the need for two-way communication given the change in our energy systems.

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Further networking over the remaining drinks and canapes courtesy of Smith and Williamson drew the evening to a close. The Future Economy Network would like to offer sincere thanks to all of our speakers and to Network subscribers, Smith and Williamson for co-hosting the event. Also, a huge thank you to all attendees – we hope you found it an interesting event and came away with some useful insights/collaborations.