Posted: 9 February 2015
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The knowledge gap

Where is our electricity going to come from? How can new technology help reduce our greenhouse gas emissions? How will we power our lives in 2050? These are the questions facing some of the best brains in the country right now. Philip Armstrong, Public Acceptability Manager, highlights how National Grid is helping the public understand the issues and have their say in Britain’s energy future.

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The knowledge gap

The knowledge gap

From left to right: The Mayor of London’s Senior Advisor for Environment and Energy, Matthew Pencharz, food critic Jay Rayner, broadcaster Jon Snow, comedian Shappi Khorsandi and Dr. Tom Counsell from DECC at the British energy challenge: the power of London discussion in January 2015.

“People have a genuine desire to understand, discuss and have their say on the big energy issues we face today and in the future.”

Philip Armstrong, Public Acceptability Manager for National Grid.


100 – the number of young people who took part in the Powering Your Future debate at the Science Museum.

Source: National Grid.

Energy plays a vital role in our everyday lives, and how we power our future is something we all have a stake in. The choices we make now – about how to reduce carbon emissions, adapt to new technologies, or manage the cost of energy – will shape our future for generations. So it’s vital that everyone feels empowered to have their say.

Philip Armstrong, National Grid's Public Acceptability Manager.

Philip Armstrong, National Grid’s Public Acceptability Manager.

At National Grid, we believe it’s our responsibility to empower people to understand the issues and engage in the debate. That’s why we have collaborated in a programme of events, in partnership with our industry colleagues, government and the media, to bridge the knowledge gap between the public, the energy industry and the government.

The Power of London

Bringing together the worlds of politics, science, journalism and comedy, the Power of London debate focused on the energy challenges and opportunities in the nation’s capital, as part of the Government’s wider British Energy Challenge campaign. With London’s energy use higher than the UK’s next four biggest cities combined, the capital has a huge role to play.

Nearly 300 Londoners from all walks of life took part in a lively and entertaining debate that challenged the audience to consider how changing the way we use energy is just as important as moving to cleaner, renewable sources. For example, we use just one per cent of the UK’s energy on lighting, while consuming far more on travel, heating and hot water needs!

Almost 90 per cent of people said they had a clearer understanding of the energy challenge after the event. Even more said they would talk about what they had heard with colleagues, friends and family.

The Big Energy Debate

Moving to the heart of Westminster, the Guardian Big Energy Debate provided an opportunity to debate the future of energy with the politicians who could make it happen, and asked how can we best achieve a secure, low-carbon energy system at an affordable cost?

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat energy secretary, Caroline Flint, the Labour shadow energy secretary, and Conservative MPs Philip Lee and Tim Yeo were quizzed on their views by the 150-strong audience, bringing together politics, expert opinion and public views and for an engaging two-hour debate.

Powering Your Future

And finally, our own Powering Your Future talks, hosted at the city’s Science Museum, on the complexity of predicting the future of energy. How can changing our behaviour, the rise of new technology and the role of global politics affect what happens?

Around 100 (mostly young) people took part in three sessions with real interest and enthusiasm. They learned about, and asked questions of, a range of possible Future Energy Scenarios and what they mean for the role of energy in our future lives.

The event followed the launch of the Museum’s National Grid-supported Engineer your Future exhibition, and proved to be a similar chance to inspire, educate and empower people to take part in the energy debate.

What next?

What is clear is that people have a genuine desire to understand, discuss and have their say on the big energy issues we face today and in the future. We see a real thirst for knowledge and enthusiasm to face the issues and argue possible solutions.

Energy Secretary E Davey speaking at the Power of London event.

Energy Secretary E Davey speaking at the Power of London event.

How will smart grids affect the way we use electricity? What role can energy storage play in the future? Should we focus on new technologies or changing behaviours? These are just a few examples of the questions raised – tackling issues at the heart of the energy debate.

It’s the responsibility of the energy industry, government and others to create these opportunities to bridge the knowledge gap and stimulate a constructive exchange of ideas. This is vital if we are to achieve a sustainable, secure and affordable energy system now and long into the future.

At National Grid, we want to continue to work collaboratively to inspire discussion and listen to views from around the country. You can join in the conversation today by giving us your thoughts, views and ideas below.

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