It’s been a year since the launch of National Grid’s ‘Powering Britain’s Future’ campaign – a nation-wide conversation about some of the unprecedented energy challenges faced by the UK. Janine Freeman, National Grid’s Head of EU and UK Public Affairs, takes a look at the campaign’s findings so far and the pledges the company is making as a result.
Listening has been at the heart of everything National Grid has been doing over the past year since launching the Powering Britain’s Future campaign.
However, listening is only of value if it leads to action. So we are taking the opportunity to report back on what we have heard from our stakeholders and how we are responding as a result.
We launched the campaign in the summer of 2012 to start a national conversation about the energy challenge facing the UK and the delivery of infrastructure that will be required in response. With around a fifth of the country’s power stations set to close by 2020, the scale of the challenge is considerable.
The Government is looking to attract £110 billion of investment to get new generating capacity built to fill the gap. And that will mean onshore and offshore windfarms, as well as nuclear and gas-fired power stations being developed – all needing to be connected to the grid system.
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.
There is no choice but to get this infrastructure programme delivered if we want the lights to stay on over the next few decades. However, there is a choice about how the programme is delivered – and that’s what Powering Britain’s Future is all about.
We have brought together as many interested parties as possible to gather views on how the challenges can be tackled. This has included representatives of all sectors of the energy industry, Government, planning bodies, plus environmental, consumer and countryside groups. We have also talked to people face-to-face around the country and encouraged online discussion and comment.
Some of the themes emerging through the process have included:
- People want more information about what must be done and how it will be paid for
- They would like to see the energy industry working together to communicate a cohesive picture
- Most people focus on the reliability and cost of energy at the point of delivery – they don’t differentiate between generation, transmission and supply
- There is not yet sufficient clarity about whether the energy challenge is about dealing with climate change or energy security – keeping the lights on
And on the delivery of new power lines, issues include:
- The need for new power lines needs be clearly explained – in jargon-free language
- People want to be involved in the debate about choosing the route of new power lines
- They want an open and honest discussion about ways in which the visual impact of power lines can be reduced through choice of route, screening or putting lines underground
We will continue in listening mode – the conversation is far from over – but we are also translating what we have learnt into actions. We have produced a report summarising the findings of our campaign to date and making some pledges of our own in response.
These pledges range from better communication and engagement, to working with others who challenge our views and working to reduce the impact of our infrastructure on the landscape.
We are already working with the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) to run workshops on our major project programme for their regional members. And recently, we have invited comment on plans that would see important external stakeholders helping us prioritise projects for undergrounding stretches of existing overhead lines in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
You can join the Powering Britain’s Future conversation today by giving us your feedback or ideas below.