This week the Aspectus PR energy team gained a little insight into how hard it must be to work at DECC. Earlier this week we attended the Dana Centre’s Engineering the Future of Energy debate and found it was far from easy to reach a consensus on how to improve our energy infrastructure. The lively event, organised by The New Economics Foundation and the The British Science Association through an Ingenious Grant from the Royal Academy of Engineering, framed the debate as follows:
“With wind energy, the energy varies with the wind. How can we deal with this? The aim of this event is to see if we can reach consensus on this question in a couple of hours, drawing on the views of experts, each with a different answer to this question.”
A panel of experts from UCL and the University of Reading put forward their different opinions, which included a super-grid, combining wind with other renewables, and better managing demand (demand response). We then had small break-out sessions to agree upon a solution. However, this was quite a challenge! One person stated that we must get out of the mind-set of selecting one preferred option; rather the answer is a mixture of all the options and one should not be prioritised above another. However, the majority within our focus group did agree that “combining wind power with other renewables” was a key factor to be prioritised.
After the break-out sessions, we discovered the majority of attendees said the solution lay in an “island system” – a local and self-sufficient energy infrastructure - which included a little bit of solar, tidal and lots of wind energy. Most people voted against the idea of an international super-grid (some people were concerned about energy ownership and security of supply with this model) and stressed the importance of effective storage.
The consensus echoes the principles outlined in Jeremy Rifkin’s Third Industrial Revolution which proposes that people generate, and share, their own renewable energy locally and storage plays a vital role in balancing the intermittent supply of renewables. Fortunately Rifkin’s principles were welcomed by this Government. We’ll be interested to see how closely DECC follows this model.