A revolution in people power

Sunday Times, May 2016It always feels good when the Sunday Times reports on something you’re part of. OK, it’s last week’s paper (left by guests as we don’t buy ’em). But it’s still worth noting. In a piece entitled ‘Will the last energy giant to leave your home please turn off the lights!’ Danny Forston talks about a life or death crisis for the big energy supplies, brought about by 3 factors:
climate change rules closing dirty power station,
oil prices have fallen,
and so too has the price of installing renewables.

Some renewables are finally becoming cheap enough to not necessarily need subsidies – solar panel costs for example have fallen 70% in five years.
This shake up in assets and demand, coupled with a more distributed system of power generation that’s emerging as individuals plug their renewables into the national grid, looks like it might be squeezing the big six in the power production game. We’re in there! Thanks to the turbine and solar panels we’re a power station, and still a net exporter to the grid (just about – despite rising occupancy and better use of our own power).

And web savy supply-only companies are heaping the pressure on the big six by luring away the energy giants’ customers with better deals.
In 2012 less than 1% of UK homes had non-big six power supplies, now that’s nearly 15%.

We’ve been avoiding the big six for a decade. Back in 2006 we had Biz Energy (who had a green tarrif). Briefly we were forced to use British Gas who bought Biz Energy – and our contract – but as soon as possible we switched to Good Energy (who only supply renewable power), and have been with them for over six years.

But things are set to change further. There’s research, driven by the electric car industry, that has halved costs of lithium batteries in three years. Soon, if you generate power at home, you’ll be able to store it at home too – good news for everyone with solar panels who goes out to work. (In the meantime, why not get an iboost and divert that exported power into your hot water supply?)

Better storage also means we’ll need less back up conventional power stations in future because the intermittent nature of renewables won’t matter so much if storage and smart grids can smooth demand. And that doesn’t favour the status quo.
The article reports a former CEO of Npower as saying “The energy supply business is facing a life-or-death moment” and describes how the power companies are reinventing themselves.