Below is a guest blog from Innovate UK – the operating name of the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency. It is a UK non-departmental public body operating at arm’s length from the UK Government reporting to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Our Predictions on the Future of Energy
Energy production is becoming an ever more pressing issue as we advance further into the twenty first century.
With a developing focus on greener energy and emerging smart energy innovations, significant change is set to take place in the next several decades. The ways in which we consume, produce and distribute energy are transforming and will significantly impact our usage and understanding.
To help make sense of what’s to come, we’ve pinpointed our predictions on the future of energy.
Energy Production Will Become Localised
Currently, most of the UK’s energy is produced and distributed through several large-scale, fossil fuel-based power plants.
In the coming decades we are likely to see thousands of small-scale producers of low-cost, renewable energy appear around the country.
This method will allow regular consumers to produce and trade their own low-carbon energy on a local scale, rather than relying on inefficient and damaging fossil fuel supplies.
Why is local better?
Centralised power stations are approximately only 50% efficient, and lose much of their production through wasted heat.
Localised energy means less waste, as heat can be used in both homes and businesses. With less distance to travel along power lines, less energy will be lost in the process.
The ‘Internet of Energy’ Will Allow for Increased Flexibility
With modern, smart and connected digital systems, suppliers and consumers will have more control over how and when energy is used than ever before.
The ‘Internet of Energy’ is a means of reducing inefficiencies in consumption by monitoring where it is needed most.
What does it mean day to day?
For the average household it allows for increased flexibility and efficiency of energy on a day to day basis.
Many modern appliances, for example, are connected. To handle surges in demand, your appliances will lower their energy usage, rather than demanding more from the national grid.
If you have an electric vehicle plugged in to your home, you can sell its stored energy back to the grid, allowing you to profit off of the energy you produce.
The Role of the Consumer Will Change
One of the biggest changes in the coming years is likely to be the role of the consumer within the energy market.
Instead of being at the edge of the energy system, regular households will have more control over when and how they use it, where it comes from, and its overall efficiency.
They’ll be able to ensure their energy costs do not exceed their budget, rather than being at the mercy of the provider.
What does this mean for energy providers?
In order for energy to become part of the circular economy, there will need to be a general shift away from simply buying energy in kWh as a unit.
Instead, consumers will be able to choose from various companies that offer different prices and value from the energy they generate. Energy will be seen as a service, rather than just a supply.
Homeowners will be able to improve their efficiency in energy consumption and have more of an active role in the way they use it.
Keep Up to Date with Innovate UK
Whilst we welcome the recognition that the transition to renewables opens up new opportunities to move to a decentralised energy future, we would like to see much more emphasis on local energy democracy and the opportunities for communities to have a real stake in future local energy economies. Glimpses of such a future are visible, for example, in the work of (SCCAN member) Mull and Iona Community Trust’s ACCESS project, being taken forward with the support of Community Energy Scotland and Scottish Government funding. It is unfortunate that opportunities for communities to take forward such innovative local energy projects have been severely curtailed by UK Government changes to support for renewable energy.