Growth in energy demand combined with the increasing deterioration of existing energy networks, means energy generation and management are now vitally important. The International Energy Agency’s ‘alternative scenario’ commissioned by the G8 reported that most OECD countries are at a critical point in their energy investment cycles, with the need for replacement enabling them to grow using smart and efficient technologies.
The European Commission estimated the EU Member States will need to invest in excess of €750 billion in power infrastructure over the next three decades, divided equally between generation and networks.
With concerns about climate change at the forefront of political debate, new approaches to power management must be developed, whether that be through increased energy efficiency, decentralised micro generation, or both. The implementation of the Climate Change, Energy and Planning Acts at the end of November 2008 would suggest that the UK, for example, is serious in its commitment to a transition to a low carbon environment. The UK has set legally binding medium and long term goals of dramatically cutting carbon emissions (15% by 2020, 80% by 2050). Yet when we take a closer look at the UK’s renewable energy generation environment, the picture is less supportive.
In terms of the deployment of renewable power generation, the UK has proved extremely slow. While it has amongst the world’s largest sources of wind, wave and tidal energy, only 4.7% of current UK energy is generated from renewable sources. Expectations are that the medium term target of 15% of energy to be generated from renewables by 2020 will be met, roughly 50% through electricity, with the rest to be met through heat and transport. While new legislation is going to clearly support the roll-out of increasing amounts of renewable generation, the role of the regulator must be reformed if the targets are to be reached.