We need a new energy Trilemma … like a hole in the head! (Part 2)

16 May 2016 | David Casale

Having dispatched Trilemma1 to Room 101 let me now try and place a finger in the dyke of Trilemma2 recently proposed by Mr Marchant before it is taken seriously by anyone and a dam wall breaks flooding regulators with confusion and obfuscation that is not required.

Trilemma2 has raised three related but simple issues;

  • Flexibility (… time of use in old money)
  • Meeting of needs
  • Affordability (… price in old money).

Let me dismantle these one by one. Flexibility, and the need for the energy system to turn up and down to meet customer demand, has been with us for years, works fine and has been a spectacular feat of engineering … at least cost. Yes, in the future, we may all own solar panels and electric vehicles but it is not going to happen overnight and the system can support a great deal of this already, even before we increase our interconnection with other systems by 7000 MW.

Of course we need to meet the needs of customers, the industry by and large meets current customer needs; some may want more tech and control in their lives but are being offered this already. The market is responding but slowly, what we need is a ‘Energy Uber’ moment.

At last we arrive at the key issue of price. Customers, quite understandably, believe they are getting a raw deal. Regulators are dispatched on 5 yearly cycles to investigate, and come back with the same answer: they are not getting a raw deal on price. However any industry that languishes 43rd-45th out of 45 home services rated and purchased by Joe Voter is likely to be bashed and so it is. What the industry has failed to do is publish the value in the products of gas and power, i.e. how good we are at keeping lights on and delivering least cost energy system that, almost without the customer noticing, is transitioning to a low carbon world. The industry is also failing to provide an infrastructure that allows an ‘internet of energy’ to develop. Just compare your meter/bill and your smartphone … notice any difference? I’m afraid the new smart meter roll out is only going 1/10th of the distance needed.

Here is a new plan:

  • Agree as society, absent political yo-yoing, what our carbon budget is and transmit that to the world to get their OK (whilst also noting what everyone else is doing)
  • Interconnect like there is no tomorrow (this is happening)
  • Plan to develop an energy system through some form of Energy System Architect (Central Bank of Energy, if you will) at LEAST COST
  • Allow Tech City folk to educate the old brigade at the not-so-smart-meter-central what they could do if they could only get access to the meter cupboard.
  • Enjoy the smiling faces of the customers as they bathe in an abundant, low cost and transitioning energy system.

David Casale

Director

Connect