Alan Price, National Grid Public Acceptability Manager, explains why it is so important for the company to work with other organisations to meet the UK’s energy challenge.
It’s good to talk
“Everyone accepts that there is a big job to be done and, instead of trying to score points, there has been a real determination to find a way forward that all parties can agree to.”
Alan Price, National Grid Public Acceptability Manager
A quarter of the UK’s generating capacity will be closed by 2020 as it is either too old or unable to meet tough climate change legislation.
Source: The Economics of Renewable Energy - Economic Affairs Committee report
The Powering Britain’s Future campaign has given National Grid a great opportunity to work with a range of partner organisations and look for ways that we can tackle the UK energy challenge together.
After all, ensuring that the UK has secure energy supplies to keep the lights on over the next few decades is a shared challenge, even though people come at it from different perspectives.
We have been incredibly impressed by the willingness of a diverse range of stakeholders to engage constructively in the issues around the energy challenge. Everyone accepts that there is a big job to be done and, instead of trying to score points, there has been a real determination to find a way forward that all parties can agree to.
Bridging the energy gap
Around a quarter of the country’s electricity generating capacity will be lost by 2020 as a result of power stations reaching the end of their economic lives or being unable to meet tough emissions targets.
The resulting energy gap will need to be closed as soon as possible with the construction of new low-carbon energy sources. The Government is currently piloting an Energy Bill through Parliament that it believes will stimulate investment in new nuclear and gas-fired power stations, along with onshore and offshore wind farms – new generating sources that will have to be connected to energy users.
For National Grid this translates to the biggest programme of power line construction since the network was installed in the middle of the last century. Some existing connections will need to be reinforced to carry higher power flows, while in other areas we will have to build completely new connections.
Last summer, to launch Powering Britain’s Future, we brought together more than 30 senior representatives from Government, the energy industry and bodies representing consumer, environmental and planning interests. The aim was to explore our shared understanding of the issues that need to be tackled and seek consensus on the way forward.
This was never going to be a cosy, back-slapping exercise for industry insiders. While Government and the industry arguably have most knowledge of the strategic and technical challenge, the other organisations bring to the table fresh thinking about the impact on people and on our landscape.
Over the past year National Grid has developed closer working relationships with several of these important stakeholders.
For example, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) has provided input into forums we have held on how to build trust in the energy industry, as well as a working group set up to develop improved communications around the energy challenge.
We have just held a pilot briefing for CPRE members in the South West of England and hope to replicate this with other CPRE regional groups.
Another partnership has been forged with the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC), which launched its own stakeholder pilot campaign – the British Energy Challenge – earlier this year. It sets out the major energy challenges faced by the UK today and looks at how we are going to power the nation while moving to a secure, low-carbon energy system.
The DECC team is taking a roadshow around UK cities during 2013 based on the 2050 calculator, an interactive tool designed by DECC’s Chief Scientific Advisor, David MacKay.
The calculator brings to life the interaction between supply, demand and emissions. It enables the user to choose what energy trade-offs to make – specific to personal preferences and the needs of their local economy – in order to meet the 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions required by 2050 (from 1990 baselines).
National Grid has worked alongside DECC, taking a Powering Britain’s Future exhibition to Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield and Birmingham, as well as participating in a lively energy debate at the Hay Literary Festival. Later this year events will be held in Manchester, Newcastle and Bristol.
Another partner organisation is the trade association Energy UK, which represents over 80 energy generators, network operators and suppliers large and small – including National Grid.
Energy UK ran a series of regional stakeholder engagement events around the country earlier this year to discuss national and local energy issues. National Grid’s Janine Freeman, Kevin Rendell and Mike Calviou spoke about Powering Britain’s Future issues at events held in Birmingham, Cardiff and London.
While we have talked about some of the major events in which we have participated, many of the most effective Powering Britain’s Future conversations take place through regular contact meetings we have set up with stakeholders.
A report on what stakeholders have told us during the first year of the campaign, and how National Grid is responding, will be published shortly. Watch this space!
To find out more
Janine Freeman, National Grid’s Head of EU and UK Public Affairs, describes how the company’s ‘Powering Britain’s Future’ campaign is encouraging a nation-wide conversation about the UK energy challenge. Read more by clicking here.
Look out for more articles about Powering Britain’s Future on Connecting.