ENA Fringe Review: Conservative conference

Published on Tuesday, 09 October 2012 11:49
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Growth and customers were the key topics at the Energy Networks Association (ENA) and New Statesman fringe event yesterday (Monday 8 October), which heard from the new Energy Minister John Hayes.

In a packed, standing-room only discussion on the importance of new energy infrastructure, the conversation was dominated by ensuring the UK tackles the challenge of immediate action with the best interests of customers and communities.

John Hayes set out a number of challenges such as the scale and timescale for investment, the need to make firm energy decisions, balancing the rate of return for investors with affordable bills and the need to deliver energy security and climate change targets:

"There is no more powerful a means of investment than to invest in energy infrastructure. We mustn't inhibit growth and business in times of a fragile economy, but we also mustn't overburden homeowners."

John also advocated the role for gas, saying:

"We need a very well defined gas strategy. Gas is not something we should be apologetic about, it is part of a planned strategy and as a mix of solutions and new technologies."

Phil Jones, Chief Executive of Northern Powergrid, described networks as the hard-working back office of the energy system ensuring security of supply in its most literal sense. He explained that once a decision is made on where energy comes from, the networks will make sure it's delivered there reliably.

"The networks release the economic value of diversity to the community. For around £75 a year, customers get a 24hr, 365day a year service. That's only a little more than some people pay every month for satellite TV."

David Mercer, Major Infrastructure Development Manager at National Grid explained the challenges facing their role of delivering infrastructure:

"National Grid doesn't decide where new generation locates, that's for generating companies, but our job is to find the best possible connection  to the grid balancing a number of factors. Local community views and protection of amenity are very important and these need to be carefully considered along with costs which pass through to consumers in their bills."

"We have a rigorous planning regime and we work hard to engage with communities and organisations such as the CPRE to ensure all concerns are highlighted to understand both the impact and the cost to society. Ultimately the Secretary of State will decide whether a connection is appropriate."

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of the CPRE welcomed the recent engagement from National Grid but called for a better approach from Government and regulators:

"We need more of a steer from regulators that is more than just delivering lower prices and a clear strategic approach to energy infrastructure from Government. We need to reframe the debate to focus on energy efficiency, demand reduction and storage.

"These projects must work through a democratic and credible planning system that listens to the legitimate concerns of communities."

Source: ©ENA

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