Despite its somewhat clichéd title (Power to the people) who would have thought it would be left to David Cameron’s Conservative party to seriously take on the debate about how we move towards a decentralised energy revolution. The purpose of this blog is not to agree one way or the other, although I have to say that I am taken with much of what’s in the document, particularly the stuff around microgeneration. Evidence from other countries shows it will take a combination of policy initiatives if we’re to see a genuine mass market of microgeneration (you might also like to see the Energy Saving Trust’s latest document on this subject called ‘Generating the Future‘, which analyses the policy interventions we believe are necessary to achieve wide spread uptake of microgeneration by 2050).
Despite somewhat cynical and sceptical comments regarding the content of the Power to the people, ranging from hostility from John Hutton at BERR to accusations of naivety by the Energy Networks Association, there’s no arguing that the report represents an ambitious step forward. A combination of feed-in tariffs, smart metering and consumer education will give us a shouting chance of moving individual households towards not only energy conservation, but being producers in their own right therefore delivering on all sorts of policy agendas from security of energy supply to reducing the massive losses on generation and distribution currently endured as part of the historic legacy of the National Grid. However, there are some caveats – we need to understand and review the success or otherwise of feed-in tariffs as they pertain to other countries. It is not all wine and roses. What we can say with certainty is that they have delivered a step-change in microgeneration installations. Compare less than 5,000 delivered by our current microgeneration grant schemes to over 300,000 delivered in Germany by feed-in tariffs. It is perfectly legitimate for those who hold a different view to express it in the decentralised energy arena. However hats off to David Cameron and colleagues for at least upping the ante in terms of the quality of the debate.