Ministers seek to fuel local power generation

The Government wants a radical shift away from centralised power as a way of cutting carbon emissions and increasing efficiency, and is investigating ways of boosting the growth of local power generation.

Decentralised power – including small-scale renewable electricity generation, combined heat and power plants and renewable heat sources like biomass – was promoted in the Energy Review for its efficiency and low climate impact. Another benefit of locally produced power is minimum transmission losses.

The Government is now looking into ways of removing the obstacles to the growth of ‘distributed’ power, and has called for feedback on ways this can be achieved, industry secretary Alistair Darling announced on Wednesday.

“I want a shift in the way we make our energy to low carbon, high efficiency. There is huge potential for us to make energy a local issue, involving individuals, businesses and communities,” he said.

“More and more people want to generate their own electricity at home and people can now buy the products on the high street. Solar panels, wind turbines and greater energy efficiency can help cut emissions and the impact on the environment.

But it remains difficult for micro-generators to sell surplus power back to the grid in a nationwide system still based on a centralised power concept, where energy is transmitted in one direction only. More incentives are also needed for low-carbon heat generation, Alistair Darling said:

“Making it easier for people to sell surplus electricity back to the Grid and looking at the potential of new combined heat and power domestic boilers, must be considered.

“We want to understand the barriers to generating energy locally in large buildings like hospitals, hotels and universities,” he said.

Combined heat and power plants, which use the heat produced in electricity generation that would otherwise have been wasted for home heating or industry, could benefit from the drive to decentralise power generation, alongside microrenewables.

The DTI is looking at the incentives needed to boost decentralised power together with power generation watchdog Ofgem.

Chief executive of Ofgem, Alistair Buchanan, said: “Ofgem has already taken action to help more locally-based electricity generators connect to electricity networks. This includes incentives for local network owners to respond to growth in renewables and to invest in research and development to realise their potential.

“To continue this progress both Ofgem and the Government need to understand what barriers may exist to further growth of distributed generation. We are therefore asking people to come forward with their views,” he said.

The DTI consultation document, “Distributed energy: A call for evidence,” can be found here.

Goska Romanowicz

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