Friday 25 March 2016

Guest Blog: Mervyn Bowden – Are potential power blackouts a driver for greater efficiency?

Guest Blog: Mervyn Bowden – Are potential power blackouts a driver for greater efficiency?

Hey, we haven’t eaten our Easter eggs yet so why do we need to think about next winter already?

There has been much speculation on the tightness in UK supply and demand balance on the electricity network next winter, i.e. 2016/17.

From an energy efficiency perspective, is it actually a desirable thing that there is a growing potential for serious blackouts?

Let’s look at this a little further

Before you say it, my apologies for bringing ESOS into this but if there were supply interruptions on a largely unplanned basis, there are a number of responsibilities reflected back on electricity consumers:

Let’s face it:

  1. It is essential that you know where you consume electricity within your business; your suppliers and customers come into this equation as well.
  2. This means assessing the importance of electricity to each facet of your business.
  3. Knowing how much you use for industrial processes and commercial activity is critical.
  4. Do you have backup supplies from the likes of renewables, CHP, alternative fuel sources like generators/batteries? How do they work and for how long?
  5. Are you able to move demand to periods when supplies are less likely to be affected – i.e. periods of nationally lower demand?
  6. Do you have a strategic energy plan to cover all these eventualities?

I've been raising issues around the lack of adequate planning within organisations for some years now. The more enlightened have been on the case for some time but even they need to look to refine their knowledge and contingency planning further.

These considerations include:

  1. The less electricity you use the less it will be a problem if mains supply is lost.
  2. What is the value to you of security through generating electricity yourself?
  3. What is that worth to your business? Can you prioritise areas you need to preserve?
  4. How vulnerable are you if there are prolonged outages – have you done the financial sums? Have you told your stakeholders?

The ESOS link is really most about the understanding of where electricity is consumed and how important it is to your business. It unfortunately doesn't prompt you to ask vital questions like “What would you do without it?”

In simple terms, do you want to leave your company exposed to energy supply/security risk next winter?

If yes, I’ll leave you to explain to your employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders why you failed to manage the possibility of supply failure.

If no, you need to either start doing something about it – like improve your understanding, efficiency and contingencies around electricity consumption. If you don’t have the skills within your organisation to do this you’ll need to talk to specialists who can help.

It may seem glib to already be talking about next winter when we’re not totally through with this one but planning and risk management take time to consider and put plans in place to take out the worst impacts.

If you do nothing else, at least think what the worst case might look like – and be worried!

It could be far worse than egg-spected!

Mervyn Bowden is the MD of Intuitive Energy Solutions.

Written by

Bruna Pinhoni

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