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Love thy neighbour - Community is at the heart of future energy

Posted on 4 September 2017 12:09 PM by McDon1L

How will you use your energy in the future?

Today, most of us are passive consumers. We get our energy from our suppliers and use it to power our everyday lives, without too much further thought about where it comes from and how much we are using.

However, things are changing. The way we consume, generate and use our electricity is being shaped by the rise in new technology such as smart meters along with the rapid rise in renewable energy generation and domestic energy storage, putting you firmly in charge of how and when you use energy.

In the future, many people may not have an electricity supplier in the traditional sense at all. Instead, they might be trading energy with each other - sharing it at a local level with neighbours and friends.

The old idiom ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ will evolve to ‘trading with the Joneses’ where being a neighbourly energy provider helping your community to meet its own energy needs emerging as a strong socio-economic motive leading to social inclusion.

For example, you may be able to make your own electricity through the solar panels on your roof, and then sell this to your neighbour, helping you both to manage your household energy and saving money on your bills. It could be in this neighbourly trading arrangement; you generate additional income as your neighbour pays for your energy service.  Perhaps instead you would like to “pay it forward” donating the energy you generate to fuel poor customer groups, local charities and schools. All of this will be possible under the future smart grid.

Local community energy schemes are not a new thing of course and there are already community groups across the UK undertaking energy initiatives. However, given the proliferation in renewables, home energy storage and smart technologies, the number of people trading energy at a local level is set to rapidly increase.

 

Networks like ours will need to collaborate with community groups and be ready to facilitate these changes so that customers and communities can make the most of new technology and be empowered to generate, buy and sell their own electricity as and when they want to.

We recently announced we are transforming from a business that simply manages the network (a Distribution Network Operator) to one that enables a smart, flexible system (a Distribution System Operator) that responds to customers’ needs as they engage with new technologies.

One of the first respondents to our Future Smart Consultation was from the Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-operative (BHESco) who are an award winning, not-for-profit community energy co-op bringing people together to take control of their energy supply by building renewable energy systems, improving energy efficiency, reducing fuel bills and tackling fuel poverty.

Kayla Ente, Founder and CEO of Brighton & Hove Energy Services Co-Operative tells us more on what the Future Smart consultation means for community energy:

In the future, community energy will fill the current gap between public bodies and private industry in serving the consumer.  Groups will continue to grow across the country, empowering people to take more control over their own energy supply". 

Community Energy groups share an interest in creating a decentralised electricity infrastructure, which serves the needs of electricity consumers by bringing more affordable, local and clean electricity. For us, this consultation extends the opportunity to inform DNO’s about important issues for which we have unique insight, i.e, local residents’ experience as consumers of electricity. 

The transition to DSO will mean more co-operation between community energy groups like ours and DSOs, thereby improving services to the community.  Their respective activities will be complimentary, delivering better value for money to the consumer, raising awareness and empowering consumers to increase their engagement with their electricity supply.

I think DSO’s should take this as an opportunity to be more proactive in co-operating with local community energy groups to ensure that consumers are receiving excellent service and that electricity is kept as affordable and accessible as possible”.

 


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