Although energy headlines from the Liberal Democrat Conference focused on their revised stance on nuclear as part of a low carbon mix – and a notable challenge on a strike price from Davey that EDF had put £1bn into Hinkley Point C already “so have more to lose from walking away from the table” – there was still plenty to discuss on the networks side.
Regardless of the source of energy, smart grids and crucially consumer behaviour were regular features of Q&A sessions across the fringe events. ENA’s own fringe event, which you can read our press release about online, focused on this, with in depth discussions about the role of demand side response, the effectiveness of smart meters and the need to explain the benefits of a smart grid to consumers.
Smart meters were given a rough ride across the conference by regularly being criticised for not being sufficiently ‘smart’. One delegate referred to them as ‘dumb meters with a smart label’ – a reference to the deployment of meters by some suppliers already, but which lack the capability of interacting with the network.
Aside from the challenges in delivery, the recognition of the essential role a smart grid will play in delivering low carbon technologies, particularly for heat and transport, was very much at the forefront of the Secretary of State’s mind.
In response to a question from ENA about whether he agreed with former Energy Minister Charles Hendry’s view that the ‘real prize of smart meters was a smart grid’, Davey gave a resounding “yes”. Adding praise for the former Conservative Minister as one of the greatest Energy Ministers who was greatly missed from DECC. Davey went on to say:
“The smart grid is the building blocks of the low carbon future. Smarter networks are absolutely critical to connecting renewable energy, low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles and balancing the need to meet demand and decarbonise.”