This is the transcript of Episode 14: The Future of Electricity (Mini) of the How to Make a Difference podcast. Go to the episode page to listen to this episode and for the show notes. Furthermore, we encourage you to read our blog post on green electricity.
Elisabeth Ignasiak: Hey everyone!
Chinmai Gupta: Hey everyone!
Elisabeth Ignasiak: We’re still going with the green electricity theme. And if you’re new to this podcast, we recommend that you listen to the episodes 10 to 13 first, where we explain how the electricity market works, what’s going on behind the scenes and what types of green electricity contracts there are.
Chinmai Gupta: We spoke with a lot of interesting people and had a lot of interesting conversations while doing our research on green energy. It was difficult to choose what to put in the main episode.
Elisabeth Ignasiak: That’s the podcaster’s dream: too much content.
Chinmai Gupta: Exactly, which we had this time around. We really wanted to focus on answering the question – what impact can I have by switching to a green energy contract.
So, in this episode, we bring to you some snippets that we saved from our interview with Stuart Lloyd-Evans on what the future of the energy industry will look like.
Elisabeth Ignasiak: We asked him about the development in the past years as well as about his predictions for the future.
Interview with Stuart Lloyd-Evans: 1:33
Chinmai Gupta: Okay, maybe you can talk a little bit about how things have changed in the energy market in the last 10 to 20 years.
Stuart Lloyd-Evans: Yeah, it’s been phenomenal. If you look in globally, there’s been big changes, but particularly in Europe, the generation mix has changed massively. It’s been led predominantly by government intervention. Governments have taken targets to reduce carbon emissions. It started in the late 90s. So what’s happening is the carbon emission targets have got tighter and tighter on generation. This led to huge investment in renewables. That’s gone from solar generation that you see as you drive around the country through to wind farms, both locally onshore, but also in the middle of the seas around Europe there are now large wind farms out, that you can see if you fly over when you’re allowed to fly.
So that’s been a massive change in where generation has come from that… I know when I first came into the market, it used to be that you’d think there was broadly in the UK, a third of the generation came from nuclear, a third came from coal, and a third came from gas… is roughly where it was probably about the turn of the century. If you look at where things are now: coal is pretty much gone.
Elisabeth Ignasiak: Which is good.
Stuart Lloyd-Evans: Gas is still there. There’s still a small amount of nuclear, but then you’ve got: it’s about 40% coming from renewables. So that there’s been just just enormous,… this enormous change.
But what that’s done is unleash huge investment into renewables, which is bringing prices down over time. So the capital cost of building renewable generation has gone from being really high, when all of this first started to now being, depending how you view it broadly comparable with other forms of generation typically gas is the probably the most comparable one there.
Chinmai Gupta: And could you talk maybe a little bit about what is the future outlook for renewables. So from 40%-ish that you say that we are at now, going up to what we hope to at least 100%?
Stuart Lloyd-Evans: Okay. I think the future is good. It has to be… I don’t think there is anybody that is seriously arguing that more renewables is not a good thing. So in the short term, there’s increasing investment going in renewables will continue to be built.
Probably there’s an increasing amount of what’s called distributed generation as well. What I mean by distributed generation is generation near the point of consumption. If you step back in time, 10 years, there used to be relatively few large generators, so big coal generators, gas generation, or nuclear, and lots of demand. Whereas now people are generating much more on their rooftops near demand. So that’s called distributed generation. That’s great, because it’s putting more renewable generation to the network. But at the same time, it’s making it more challenging to manage the networks.
And as well as more batteries. Some people already have storage in their homes, where they’re investing in batteries there. Or people are buying electric cars. That’s a battery with wheels on it.
So there’s already things, where they’re likely to become part of the network in future. Because one of the big challenges of electric vehicles is if everybody’s got an electric vehicle sitting at home they’re trying to charge: the physical network just will not be able to cope, if everybody is using all of their gadgets at home and trying to charge their car at the same time. So there’s big investments required in oder to make sure that charging happens at a time that is beneficial for the network.
Elisabeth Ignasiak: So one thing we’re predicting is just more renewable energy to go online. Everybody’s investing in that, we’re gonna see a more distributed network. So rather than the big coal plant, we’re gonna see lots of small solar electricity generated on rooftops, and we’re gonna see investments in things like battery technology and smart technologies to make sure that our electric vehicles, which are the batteries on wheels, get charged on times that help the grid rather than making it more fragile.
Stuart Lloyd-Evans: Exactly, yes.
Elisabeth Ignasiak: We hope you enjoyed this trip with the time machine. And before we go: This was our 3rd month after launching this podcast. So we’re really quite curious to understand your thoughts on the format. So far, we’ve had a long episode at the start of each month, and then shorter episodes for the rest of the month. What are your thoughts on this?
Chinmai Gupta: You would have noticed that we’ve played with the format of the minis a bit as well. For Sustainable Banking, we played back some of our favourite clips form the main episode, for Carbon Offsetting, we brought to you a new solution in each mini episode, and for Green Energy, we’ve sort of spread out the story and analysis through the month. Could you tell us what your favourite format was?
Elisabeth Ignasiak: Our email is hey at hey-impact.com. That’s it for today! Next week we’re jumping into a new topic. So stay tuned!
Chinmai Gupta: Bye for now!