Engerati conducted over 20 live interviews at its live pop-up studio at the recent EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW). Interviews with policy makers, association leaders, academics and community leaders in the energy industry gave us greater insight into the drivers and challenges faced everyday.
Interviewees seemed to share one vision and that is to be able to influence and create European initiatives and drive the agenda for energy security and a sustainable energy future.
The fact that we need a more sustainable energy framework is not in question. However, what was encouraging is how far some of the boundaries are being pushed, particularly at the legislative level. This was pointed out during our interview with Paul Hodson, Head of Unit for Energy Efficiency.
The signal from the judging committee for the EUSEW awards was also clear, with two of the five winners representing the biogas sector.
Both initiatives display a real closed-loop approach to the generation of biogas-not just for commercial benefit but for the community as a whole. This integrated way of looking at the production chain-from the incorporation of waste through to carbon capture at the end of the process-is not just holistic but it also makes commercial sense.
While not radical or new, the opportunity to integrate technologies to create a closed-loop energy system is becoming increasingly evident. At Engerati, we believe it has already reached a tipping point.
The Renewables Question – Subsidies Must Go
Most commentators in the studio were unanimous in their belief that tariff-based subsidies are no longer necessary.
While there is still a place for the subsidisation of technology such as solar panels to incentivise adoption, it is important that tariffs shift closer to a true market-based model.
This would lay the framework to incentivise consumer demand response, reward fast-to-ramp electricity generation and help engage private sector capital by providing a solid market-based framework.
Community Energy on the rise
With examples from Cyprus, Belgium and Cornwall, a number of experts joined us to talk about their community energy projects. The divers for these were clear – energy security at a local and regional level.
For instance, Cornwall, a region in England, is making great efforts to invest in a centre of excellence for tidal power. The aim is to de-risk themselves from central supply, create local jobs which could benefit a beleaguered fishing industry, and create investment incentives for commercial entities.
Advanced community energy projects in Belgium now have significant generation share and, much like our examples from Cyprus, are focusing on the innovative creation of billing and tariff structures.
Energy Storage – just part of the mix
Most commentators agreed that while energy storage is desirable in its role to shift peak, regulate frequency and integrate renewables, we are far from viewing it as a silver bullet.
Energy storage solutions should be viewed as part of the mix. In fact, a recent Engerati webinar, 'Regulatory Framework and Market Design Needs', it was argued that a well-connected and multi-faceted generation mix-with the right control layer-can exist without energy storage.
However, most commentators agree that energy storage can add substantial value. We also cannot ignore the pace of innovation, driven by the Electric Vehicle (EV) sector, which will deliver high density energy storage with the right charge and discharge characteristics.
Thinking Big and Thinking Connected
Hyper-connectivity featured throughout most of the interviews. This was reinforced in our interview about the North Sea Energy Alliance.
There is a realisation that the more interconnected our generation sources and demand sources are-using technology and control offered by a smarter grid- the more we are to achieve sustainable energy security.
This will allow us to create an Energy Grid where diverse generation sources with different characteristics can act in harmony and help to reduce our reliance on fossils. Again, we have the technology but the critical question looms - Who is going to pay?