Can we devolve electricity generation in the UK?

Last week, a report publishing research conducted by a consortium of 9 UK universities, and co-authored by CIED researcher, Dr Victoria Johnson argued that up to 50 per cent of electricity demand in the UK could be met by distributed and low carbon sources by 2050.

Distributing Power: A transition to a civic energy future” published by the EPSRC-funded Realising Transition Pathways Research Consortium assesses the technological feasibility of a move from the current traditional business models of the ‘Big Six’ energy providers to a model where greater ownership is met by the civic energy sector. It also goes further by questioning what types of governance, ownership and control a distributed future would need.

Despite an unfavourable policy environment, there is growing interest in the potential of distributed energy systems from a range of stakeholders: the devolved governments, municipalities, and communities. Although market penetration remains low, the number of decentralised generation schemes is growing. But activity is neither coherent nor well-co-ordinated.

In the her blog post, for policy@Manchester, Victoria describes some of the key findings from Distributing Power and highlights that a major driver for this transition would be a step change in the role of the civic energy sector (communities, co-operatives, local authorities, town and parish councils, social housing providers) through participation in, and ownership of, electricity generation schemes.

She concludes that while ‘Distributing Power’ assesses the impact of one distributed generation future, there are others, which might have a greater role for solar, onshore wind, or other generation mixes. However, the report offers general insights into the barriers and the technological transformation that would be required for a move to a highly distributed energy future.


VikiJohnsonweb (3)Victoria Johnson joined the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand, at Sussex Energy Group in September 2014 from the Low Carbon Research Institute of Wales, based at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University where her work focussed historical transitions in the UK energy sector and institutional transformation necessary for distributed low-carbon electricity generation in the UK.

Between 2007 and 2012 Victoria led the research programme on climate change and energy policy at leading independent think tank, NEF (New Economics Foundation). She holds a PhD in Atmospheric Physics from Imperial College, a MSc (awarded with distinction) in Climate Change and a BSc in Environmental Sciences, both from the University of East Anglia.

Victoria is also Research Associate at the Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI), University of Manchester. She is an experienced interdisciplinary and widely published researcher in the fields of climate change and energy policy at the domestic and international level. To date, she has led or contributed over 35 policy-relevant publications in these fields. Her principal research interests relate to the mechanisms and societal implications of socio-technical transitions across a range of spatial scales with a particular reference to power, agency, social justice and international development. Based at the SCI, she is primarily comparing patterns of diffusion of low-energy technologies (district heating, light-rail networks, and Passivhaus) in the UK with other European countries.

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