This year’s Heat and Decentralised Energy conference explores the pace of change that’s happening in our energy system. The Association for Decentralised Energy Deputy Director (incoming) Dr Joanne Wade shares her thoughts.
Whilst it feels like everything is changing faster than ever, perhaps it’s more the case that there’s not one consistent pace of change. Rather, some changes are coming like Lewis Hamilton in 7th gear whilst others are more like following a tractor down the A303 (if you never have, think yourself lucky…).
The pace of change isn’t about change in itself; it’s about what you’re trying to achieve.
Building networks takes time, for example – whether you’re expanding the gas network to off-grid properties, digging a heat network in a city centre or reinforcing the power grid in an area of growing renewable generation.
Product development is considerably quicker, especially for technology-driven products where you can problem-solve through software updates once a device is already in someone’s home.
Social movements and campaigns can take a long time to be born but then explode in public consciousness: think back a year or two and consider how many people were talking about single-use plastics.
Change, left to happen organically, takes as long as it takes.
But what if there’s a deadline?
If we’re serious about global and national ambitions to reduce carbon emissions, then the organic approach may not be enough.
The dramatic take-up in global renewable capacity, particularly solar PV, was interventionist: subsidise the product until it can sustain itself. The heat network market in the UK is about to go through a similar phase with the injection of more than £300m through the Heat Network Investment Project.
But sometimes money is not enough. Innovation and change can happen at speed, but our institutions may be holding us back. Regulatory frameworks could be more agile, fostering innovation whilst still protecting consumers. Planning decisions could be made more quickly whilst still protecting the interests of local communities.
What we need is a clear narrative around the need for change in our energy system, just as we’ve heard a clear narrative about plastics in the past year. We need to share how our system will change and take people on a journey with us. And we need to encourage our institutions to take decisions more quickly, without regret, in a culture which recognises that we are trying to achieve something different with our energy system, something cleaner and fairer for all.
Are you frustrated in the slow lane or struggling to keep up with the speedsters? Join us at on Thursday 29 November at Heat and Decentralised Energy 2018 to share your perspective and hear from expert speakers including:
- Katie Black, Director of Policy, National Infrastructure Commission
- Emma Floyd, Project Director, Heat Networks Investment Project
- Stefan Hakansson, Global Director for City Energy Solutions , E.ON SE
- Chris Stark, Chief Executive, Committee on Climate Change
- Innovators from across the energy networks and technologies sector
Book your place now at http://heatconference.co.uk/booknow. Discounts are available for SMEs, public sector organisations, academics, students and charities.