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How will you come alive as part of the energy system?

Sensemaking / How will you come alive as part of the energy system?

A new mindset for corporate leadership on climate change is emerging and it’s putting people – and life – back into our energy network.

By Gemma Adams / 25 Jul 2017

A new mindset for corporate leadership on climate change is emerging and it’s putting people – and life – back into our energy network, helping decarbonise it more quickly and efficiently.

A new wave of organisations is transforming our energy network by changing how they participate in it; shifting their role from being a passive user in the energy system to an active player. They are helping to make our static network more interactive and adaptive so that it is better able to handle renewable energy. Every organisation that makes this shift is helping to drive fundamental changes in the dynamics of the system beyond their own operations and value chains. They are unlocking carbon and energy savings by changing the dynamics of our existing network so that it can unlock the potential of renewable energy.

This is why the Living Grid is asking corporate energy users “How will you come alive as part of the energy system?”

Until recently, organisations had no choice but to play an isolated, passive role in the energy, network because it was impossible to communicate with the grid or one another in real time.  But digital technologies are changing this. It’s now possible for organisations to play an active role in balancing supply and demand for energy and this is predicted to become more significant as we move forwards. Corporates can now adopt digital technologies to allow them to coordinate their energy demand in sync with variations in the supply of energy, without disrupting their operations. Using on-site batteries, they can now store and share the surplus wind and solar energy they generate, capturing it for when it’s needed and helping to move energy around local networks.  

Supplies of renewable energy fluctuate far more than coal, oil, gas and nuclear power. Therefore, an energy network powered by solar, wind and other renewable sources requires a different set of checks and balances to our legacy network, in order to remain stable. Until recently, the more renewable energy we introduced to our grid, the more unstable and expensive it became to operate. Today’s corporate energy users are helping to change this by adopting digital technologies that allow them to use and generate energy in a responsive, cooperative, interactive manner. Their large energy loads and generation already influence patterns of demand and supply across the network, so by choosing to interact differently with the network, they can noticeably affect its dynamics.  

These changes are facilitating the emergence of local energy sharing economies that make efficient use of renewable power.  For example,  Power Ledger’s peer-to-peer trading platform in Perth, Australia, allows organisations and homes to sell the surplus electricity they generate on their rooftops and store in batteries directly to others using the local electricity distribution network – without the need for a retailer.  Last year, Centrica launched a similar local energy market concept in Cornwall, this time with a middleman, that circulates energy locally by bringing demand-side management, generation and storage together in a concerted way. In France, trials are underway to establish the world’s first solar-panelled road to charge stationary electric vehicles via induction, when there’s surplus energy available.  

If organisations want to drive more of these changes to develop a progressive energy future, it seems that mindset matters. If we carry on using energy in the same isolated and passive way, our network will continue to be static, linear and inefficient. By consciously modelling more active ways of participating in the network, corporate energy users have the opportunity to influence the dynamics of the system beyond their operations and value chains, to bring a radically new system to life.  

Is your organisation ready to embrace a more active role in our energy network?  Forum for the Future and SmartestEnergy have put together a set of questions to help you consider the mindset you’re bringing to your energy use, and how your organisation can make the shift.

The Living Grid is a pioneering community of organisations who are driving fundamental changes to our human energy network to decarbonise it more quickly and efficiently.  

We’re developing an approachable, new strategic narrative for the energy transition and using it to drive better forms of participation amongst users and suppliers that will make the system better-able to handle distributed, renewable energy.  This new narrative will imagine the future of our energy system by taking inspiration from the decentralised, decarbonised, interactive, democratic energy system that already exists in nature - that’s the best precedent we have.  

The current phase of the Living Grid is convened and supported by Forum for the Future and SmartestEnergy.  We began with a global, online conversation to ask, “How would nature redesign our alien energy system for life on Earth?”  In July, we launched a video to inspire corporate energy users to assume a more cooperative role in the way they manage their energy supply and use, and to see this as a vital part of leadership on climate change.  


What might the implications of this be? What related articles have you seen?

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