Utility Week

Utility Week 5th December 2014

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6 | 5th - 11th December 2014 | UtILItY WeeK People & Opinion Public backing is key to future energy plans Consumers need to be engaged now in a debate about how to meet future energy requirements. Chief executive's view Mike Foster, CEO, Energy and Utilities Alliance L aunched in Parliament, Carbon Connect's Path- ways for Heat; Low Carbon Heat for Buildings (see p18) was the first in a series of reports sponsored by Energy and Utili- ties Alliance (EUA) and our col- leagues at the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM). The report recognised that heat accounts for nearly half of the energy consumed in the UK and around a third of carbon emissions. Around 80 per cent of the heat is used in homes and buildings, and gas dominates, meeting around 80 per cent of consumers' needs. So a focus on the role of gas in a low-carbon environment, and pathways to meet our climate change obliga- tions, is key. Pathways for Heat provides a stocktake of where we are now and what current thinking sug- gests will be the route to meeting lower carbon targets, while also dealing with energy security and affordability. It offers no silver bullet; it acknowledges the future role of gas alongside a range of other fuel sources, but does stress the need to start sooner rather than later in driving up energy effi- ciency levels. The report also highlights a number of gaps in our under- standing that policymakers need to fill to assess exactly what the best ways forward are. For example, what role do biogas or hydrogen have in the future of the gas grid? Could the market for the gas grid be extended to cater for gas being used a trans- port fuel? I don't think consumers in the UK recognise the importance and value of the gas grid, which provides eight out of ten homes with the energy they rely on, offering secure supplies and a price that is cheaper than the alternatives. Moving to an all-electric heat scenario as the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) imagined in 2010 seems, rightly, to be a discredited option. But sizeable reductions in the volumes of gas trans- ported in the not too distant future will nevertheless impact upon the economics of the grid and because the infrastructure is not recognised by the public (let's face it, we bury the pipes and the supply is convenient to use), I suspect there is no accounting for how consumers will react to changes. What made me smile in the report was its questioning of Decc's approach to cooking. It may account for only around 6 per cent of heat demand, but the energy is required at the "wrong time" (a bit like the wrong type of snow, which stops trains running), so Decc's solution is to convert all cooking to gas – that's right, at the same time it wants all heating to go electric. Without a viable gas grid, that means having bottled gas in every home – and the infrastruc- ture demands involved in using bottled gas are neither straight- forward nor convenient. So consumers need to know more about future plans for their energy demands. At the launch of the report, I mentioned the need for future policy to pass the "Daily Mail test". Whatever the intentions of officials and politicians, unless they get full consumer buy-in to their plans, it will end in tears. Therefore, if the plans mean a widespread move to district heat networks, with all that entails and fundamental change to the gas grid, then we need that pub- lic debate now, not later. "We have yet to have an investment case for new tools and equipment turned down in ten years… Drag your finance director out, get him muddy, get him in a hole and I am sure it will pay dividends" Chris Clarke, director of asset management and HS&E, Wales and West Utilities, speaking at the Utility Week Health & Safety Conference 2014. See more, p26 Correction on Didcot In a market View in the 29th November issue of Utility Week, the author incorrectly stated that rWe's Didcot b CCGT plant was 'shut indefi- nitely' after a fire in October this year. In fact, the plant was back working at 50 per cent capacity nine days after the fire.

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