Engagement key to future of renewables

Centre for Sustainable Energy chief executive Simon Roberts told Energy Solutions visitors this morning that engagement of the UK's 'citizenry' is key to delivering renewable energy.

In his keynote address, Mr Roberts said people needed to re-engage with their energy use and stressed that renewables do not, and should not, have “an inalienable right to succeed”.

Setting out his ‘conditions for success’, he outlined six key elements for the future of renewables:

• Technological advance to prove devices and lower production costs

• A stable policy conditions providing adequate ‘rents’ to attract investment for developments and innovation

• An energy system designed and operated for renewables

• A planning system which instils confidence and enables the future we need

• A citizenry willing to pay for the transition

• A society willing to host the technologies

“That’s quite a challenging list,” he said. “But if renewables are going to succeed, people need to be willing to host the technologies we’re talking about… we’ve got to accept anaerobic digestion with all its smells and biogas with all its fumes and extra trucks.”

However, he stressed, “success is not inevitable. All conditions need to be met”. And it’s the last three on the list where he sees the blind spots in government policy and in the industry’s approach. Specifically, he pointed to the government’s ‘Renewables Roadmap’, published earlier this year. It’s a document he recommends, though there are some omissions in his opinion, crucially in the interaction between people and policy.

There are three things missing from the roadmap, he says, a sense that the people might need to be involved, an understanding that energy ‘happens’ somewhere, so there’s always a local dimension and a recognition that engaging people and communities is a necessary condition… not a ‘nice to have’ extra. In other words he said (though he was reluctant to use unpopular terms) it is about both Big Society and Localism.

Therefore he said, he has three ‘small’ asks to ensure the conditions for success were met and the future of renewable energy secure:

• A national culture of shared responsibility for delivery of a low carbon future

• A re-connection of people with energy supply and use

• A planning framework to encourage low carbon localism

For more information visit www.cse.org.uk

Live from Energy Solutions 2011

Will Parsons

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