Lisa Gingell, director of energy management solutions company, t-mac Technologies, claims the government’s recent Energy Bill is in danger of failing as it hits supply, but not demand.
The introduction of the draft Energy Bill at the end of last year sent shockwaves through parts of the energy industry.
Suppliers, in particular, read the small print with something approaching panic – only to leave them facing what the government are calling the ‘biggest transformation of Britain’s electricity market since privatisation’.
The bill’s aim – essentially to reduce electricity consumption – is an important, and long overdue, step forward.
For months before its plans were announced, trade associations like the Energy Services & Technology Association (ESTA) and businesses whose success lies on using large amounts of energy had discussed what changes the legislation would bring.
We all knew renewable generation would be top of the agenda – it’s a media friendly subject which ticks green boxes and yes, ensuring sustainable and stable energy supply is an issue of vital importance to everyone in the UK.
What was missing from the draft Energy Bill, though, was any suggestion at all that the government is serious about the other side of the coin – managing energy demand.
On 30th November 30, a day after the draft bill was released last year, the Institution of Engineering and Technology released its own guidance calling for demand management measures to be fully integrated into energy policy going forward – and they’re quite right.
At t-mac Technologies, we tell clients that the best way to save energy – and therefore the best way to save money on energy – is to reduce the amount they use. With technology like our mini Building Energy Management System, businesses can expect to shave up to 40% from energy bills – a huge figure if applied across the UK as a whole. Reducing energy use also reduces carbon emissions, helping the government hit its targets.
As a member of the ESTA council, I understand the issues facing the industry. Money is tight for many, and pressures on bottom lines come from many different directions.
With the Energy Bill, though, the government had an opportunity to transcend what can be seen as petty, business-based worries and cast in stone a plan to bring demand management into the efficiency mix. However, unfortunately, they seem to have missed the boat.
Despite the introduction of the Energy Efficiency Strategy, which recognises the potential for savings which can come from looking at non-domestic demand, what we need – and what, I believe, Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, still has time to implement – is an energy policy which sees energy demand and supply as a whole system, and doesn’t pick off individual elements piecemeal.
It seems the government is still very much blind to what the UK needs to do. Currently, businesses themselves are leading the way on energy reduction strategies, using companies like t-mac to cut their bills. Although big polluters (the most energy intensive companies), will be exempt from carbon taxes – SMEs and others will not.
Mr Davey, though, doesn’t seem to notice, and is still focussed wholly on supply – concentrating on pylons and power stations rather than productivity and purse strings.
Hopefully I, and the Institution of Engineering and Technology, will be proved wrong, and Westminster will realise they have missed a golden opportunity around managing the energy the UK uses, rather than simply how it is supplied.
However, I don’t think anyone in the energy industry is holding their breath on that score.