‘Preparing for a Zero Carbon Future’: What happens when you push renewables to the limit? With Juliet Davenport OBE

Future of Zero Carbon Britain

The vision of a Zero Carbon Britain was the focus of our latest webinar “Preparing for a Zero Carbon Future” with guest speaker Juliet Davenport OBE, Founder and Non-Executive Director of Good Energy Group Plc, and host of the popular “Great Green Questions” podcast.

Hosted by Terry Noble, Principal Consultant in the Energy & Utilities Practice at Odgers Interim and Virginia Bottomley, Chair of the Board Practice at Odgers Berndtson, this webinar was the third instalment in our topical series on zero carbon and centred around the question as to what would happen if we pushed green energy to the limit? What would it mean for the UK? Are we ready for it?

Zero-Carbon Britain requires a holistic approach

As the Founder and Non-Executive Director of Good Energy Group Plc – a renewable energy company with a mission to power a greener, cleaner future together with its customers – Juliet’s mission is clear: She is working on ideas that will help transform the energy sector into a green and sustainable force to have a positive impact on climate change. After more than two decades of working and researching across the energy sector, her answer to our hypothetical scenario of pushing green energy to the limit in the UK is focused predominantly on the potential delivery of a zero-carbon future from a holistic point of view.

Presenting some of the key findings of the in-depth ‘Zero Carbon Britain’ report Good Energy compiled in conjunction with energy systems Catapult, Juliet shared with us that it is imperative to not only consider renewable energy under the lens of “financial instruments supported by government”, but rather to look at the whole infrastructure that is needed to deliver a network that can sustain a zero-carbon Britain. Her approach is simple: “If we are going to do this as speed, we can’t just have one part of the sector moving forward, without all of it moving forward together.”

5 Pillars for a Zero Carbon Future

Juliet’s holistic approach to the renewable energy question stems from her conviction that green energy can not be delivered if providers only look at it from individual angles. Instead, Juliet argues, the delivery of a zero-carbon future is dependent on what she refers to as the “5 Pillar Model”, which represent the five key areas green energy providers need to consider and deliver in order to achieve a fully renewable energy infrastructure. The pillars listed below highlight not only some of the key facts that relate to these areas, but also raise the questions that will need answering in relation to each of them.

Pillar 1: Research & Innovation
- Investment: where investment goes will have a massive impact in the next 10 years
- Only 0.2 billion is invested into energy solutions at the moment
- What areas can we invest in today?
- Are we investing enough today to deliver tomorrow?

Pillar 2: Infrastructure
- The 3 key sectors for the infrastructure are Power, Heat, and Transport
- New technologies are potentially sitting on the customer side -> rather than 1-to-many relationships we will have many-to-many relationships
- How will this infrastructure develop to implement these changes?
- Decarbonizing will be a big challenge in the power and heating sectors
- Transport sector will see big changes, due to electricity and hybrid advances

Pillar 3: Regulation
- Bringing new ideas will require careful navigation through a vast regulatory body
- Renewables have no marginal costs, therefore setting prices will be a challenge
- Designing market structures will be challenging
- How will the consumer be protected?

Pillar 4: Consumer
- Consumer behaviour and interaction with new technologies will be the key part to decarbonization
- BUT, when consumers make decision will they be protected and will it have an impact?

Pillar 5: Skills
- The sectors are missing skills around engineering and creativity
- Have we got the people who will do all of the above?
- Have we got the skills?

Future Steps towards a Zero Carbon Britain

Juliet’s answer to our hypothetical question what would happen if we pushed renewable energy to the limit in the UK, is that we must consider the overall potential first. Without having the required infrastructure in place, the right skills to deliver it, or the correct pricing figured out, it will remain a challenge to implement a zero-carbon energy system.

However, the key findings of the ‘Zero Carbon Britain’ report offer a glimpse into a hopeful future for the renewable energy sector. The report finds that over the coming years electricity will be the dominant player in the energy market, fully decarbonising the heat and transport sector, while a lot of investment is likely to flow into finding solutions to increase energy efficiency. Furthermore, it finds that renewable technologies will continue to emerge and improve, providing wind and solar solutions to power nations, as will storage solutions to provide the infrastructure needed to store
and retain energy. Finally, the report is hopeful that costs can remain competitive, making up around 1.5% of the GDP in 2050.

These hopeful outlooks will of course rely heavily on solving the underlying challenges of the 5 pillar model mentioned above, however, Juliet notes that a big shift has already started taking place, especially in the space of electrification and in particular electric vehicles, both for commercial and private purposes. And while electrical charging presents a potential challenge, advances across smart charging have made a huge positive impact and have a great potential for use in other areas.

And while Juliet highlights that investment needs to flow further into the centralisation of energy networks, to pave the way for the smoother implementation of infrastructure, she also points out that a lot of advances have been made across solar and wind, with big potential in decades to come. Especially, once we find a way to employ these technologies and required logistics at scale.

If you are inspired by these findings, and you would like to discover more about green energy and renewables, have a listen to Juliet Davenport’s “Great Green Questions” podcast, or get in touch with Terry Noble for an informal chat or further information around our Energy & Utilities Practice.


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