Like the transition from the legacy mainframe purpose-built computers of the 1980’s that powered governments and large companies, the benefits of computer technology were only released to the masses via first, the humble PC, followed by the broadband networks that enabled them to be connected. The energy sector has followed a similar path, transitioning from large central generating plants, to a more local decentralised system that we call distributed generation.
The grids and local power networks that connect distributed generation sites have also been revolutionised. Just like the development of broadband networks, they have evolved to become fast-reacting, multi-dimensional and directional grids with an increased level of connectivity, allowing power from distributed generation sites to quickly travel to where it is needed.
The benefit of this work has been that we are able to deploy and connect large quantities of renewable and back-up generation across the UK at lightning speeds, when compared to the traditional central generation plants of the past.
Distributed generation solutions are quicker to get through planning, faster to build on site and quicker to connect to the local grid. They are also built closer to where their energy is consumed, minimising losses in the transmission and distribution of the energy produced.
As recent history has demonstrated, a country with a strong mix of home-grown renewable resources can cope much better with energy shocks caused by despotic leaders and corrupt regimes.
The call for extra drilling in the North Sea is unfortunately nothing more than fools gold, as the recent ICC report demonstrates that it results in the creation of more fossil fuels that will damage the atmosphere and environment. Instead, we need to look to renewable energy to quickly transition to being a carbon neutral country, to protect the futures of the next generations.
Just as our pursuit of rapid economic and population growth has caused irreparable damage to the ozone layer, continuing to depend on carbon-intensive technologies to power our lifestyles does damage that will take decades to repair (if it’s even possible). We need a balanced, rational approach to how we grow as countries and individuals, and we need to find ways to do so with the least environmental damage possible.
There is no free lunch for the west – we have created a carbon-intensive world and it’s now crunch time – we have no choice but to find new ways to build that carbon-free future.
Distributed generation is one such way to pave the route to a greener future. While the UK is a world leader, to meet our own goals of being carbon neutral by 2050 will require significant investment and fundamental changes to how we live today. While some will remember the rewiring and replumbing of the UK through the 1960’s and 70’s to facilitate the National Grid and National Gas Transmission systems, we need to take the same approach to using green energy, ensuring it is accessible and available to all and that we maximise every kilowatt, to ensure the continuation of our planet.