Consumers will dominate the energy debate

For immediate release – Monday 30 September 2013

Energy Networks Association’s (ENA) Conservative Conference fringe event heard a clear message of the importance of consumers to a smarter energy future.

Opening the discussion Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP turned the debate about smart grids selling low carbon policy to sceptics on its head:

“It’s not about the grid but about customers and about those who don’t need to use energy at peak times being able to defer their consumption. It would be smarter too to have tariffs that relate to this and benefit consumers.”

“We ought to be doing demand management regardless of low carbon policies and renewables. But economic sceptics will only be converted if it reduces the cost of back up generation power that is needed to support renewables.”

Steve Johnson, Chief Executive of Electricity North West and Chairman of ENA agreed that customers will play a key role:

“A smart grid is all about the move to a low carbon economy and with innovation we can use our existing networks better. But we are absolutely right to look to customers as the source of the solution too.

“We are still going to have to invest so we should do it in a smart way instead. It doesn’t mean bills will go down because we will still need to reinforce the network, but a smart grid will help mitigate the traditional response of putting expensive copper in the ground.”

Matthew Sinclair, Chief Executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, cast doubts on the pace with which changes were taking place:

“The core problem is the enormous amount of money that needs to be invested to deliver the move to renewables. Our low carbon policy is dead on arrival and the rising prices and profits aren’t a market failure, they are what the system was meant to achieve for investment but this was a mistake.

“Getting consumers to use energy when they don’t want to is not a positive customer experience. My worry is that we’re pushing too far too quickly at a pace that we’re not ready for.”

Dr Pierluigi Mancarella, Lecturer in Future Energy Networks at the University of Manchester, sets out why a smart grid was so essential:

“The problem we face is that the system is incredibly inflexible. Flexibility is currently provided by gas but we’re still not sure exactly how we’ll manage that in the future. A smart grid is actually about bringing together the new technology to explore other options like storage.

“If engineers can build the pyramids and a few decades ago sent a man to the moon then there is nothing that technology cannot achieve. We need an energy system that moves from an asset paradigm to a control based paradigm.”


Notes to editors

ENA is the voice of the networks representing the ‘wires and pipes’ transmission and distribution network operators for gas and electricity in the UK and Ireland.

For further information please contact:

Tim Field MCIPR,
Head of Press and Public Affairs
Energy Networks Association
E: [email protected]
T: +44 (0)207 706 5157
M: +44 (0)7725 372 758

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