2019 outlook: Energy managers outline key challenges


The Energyst asked senior energy managers for views on key challenges and opportunities for the year ahead. Here’s what they said:

Adam Pawelas, group director environment & utilities, Carlsberg: “From an economic perspective, energy prices after being flat for some time are on the rise. It is difficult to predict exactly how that will play out because many thermal fuels are linked to oil – where prices are now coming down. So there may be a correction. But as electricity prices rise, so viability and [RoI] visibility of energy efficiency projects is better.

“In the longer term, the difficulty is still to make longer financial projections when it comes to carbon. Carbon taxation or carbon pricing, which may affect not only electricity [pricing] but also thermal energy, is not yet clear.

“To date, much focus has been on renewable electricity, but the solutions that will decarbonise industrial heat remain at an early stage. Industry can follow the decarbonisation of the power sector [and is able] to source renewable electricity. However, renewable heat is still a big challenge, not only for 2019, but from here onwards.”

Key agenda item for 2019?

“The future of carbon policies: will it be regulation, carbon tax, or will it be different instruments? How are we going to tackle this and what is the transition – from both a European and global perspective.”

James Tiernan, group energy & environment manager, Unite Students:

“For us the biggest opportunity is using innovative solutions that not only deliver attractive energy savings, but also a wider range of tangible and measurable business benefits.

“For example the new Prefect IRUS smart heating control system we’re deploying helps us meet customer expectations on comfort in an energy efficient manner, but helps us manage other business needs: The system has potential to automate the monitoring and recording of hot water tank temperatures for water hygiene purposes, and provides invaluable building information around space occupancy, temperature, humidity, light levels and noise levels that we can use to improve management and behaviour in our properties.

“The biggest challenge probably comes from uncertainty: whether it is Brexit, what future energy prices are going to do, or the direction of government energy policy, the risk is that the level of uncertainty and volatility makes it difficult to put together robust business cases or make long term investment decisions.”

Gareth Chaplin, senior energy performance manager, Unite Group:

“We have both a challenge and opportunity in developing a more sophisticated M&V process to make sure we capture all of the benefits of some of our control strategies (rather than just using a blended kWh rate) that we can communicate simply to the business.

“For example, with the Prefect IRUS system we’ve implemented a DUoS and TUoS avoidance strategy and we’ll see the benefit of much better control in December/January (when we have periods of low occupancy and energy costs are higher) by reducing energy consumption to an absolute minimum. The challenge is how do we come up with a way for accounting for this and simply communicating it to the rest of the business? However, there is opportunity to be had in pursuing and reducing the most expensive kWhs. All kWhs aren’t equal!”

Henrietta Stock, energy & carbon manager, SES Water: “The biggest challenge for me is going to be getting support for ongoing investment in all scales of renewables and battery storage, given the end of FiT and the Targeted Charging Review.

“Opportunities include the work that we’ll need to complete for ESOS compliance and starting the process of electrification of the vehicle fleet.”

Vikas Ahuja, energy projects manager, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust: “As an NHS Trust, security of supply is – understandably – profoundly important to us. However, uncertainty around Brexit, continuously varying landscape (because of ever-increasing share of distributed generation) and changes in regulation (the most recent being Capacity Mechanism and Triad charging) and very quickly it becomes really overwhelming.

“On the other hand, I believe there are still opportunities out there and we need to explore them in detail such as battery storage, electric vehicle charge points, carports and Power Purchase Agreements. If we carefully choose our options, I think it is very much possible that we not only improve our resilience but also cut costs in the process.”

Dan Fernbank, energy & sustainability manager, University of Reading: “A key challenge for us is to look at more innovative funding solutions for sustainability projects with more constraints on internal budgets. A key opportunity is to try and capitalise further on the clear interest and enthusiasm that currently seems prevalent locally and nationally for environmental action. A good example would be in trying to engage building occupants with tackling out of hours energy usage (which usually equates to energy wastage!), making the most of our new online energy platform.”

Andy Pennick, United Utilities’ energy production planning manager:  “Making a solid business case for flexibility continues to be a challenge in the short term as regulatory change takes hold and we wait for market access to open up for commercial and industrial (C&I) customers. With the likely disappearance of Triad avoidance, the Capacity Market suspended and firm frequency response (FFR) prices dropping significantly, next year we will continue to monitor closely and wait and see how these changes in the market play out. We will however continue with our plans to invest in behind the meter renewable generation at our largest treatment facilities.”

Related stories:

2019 energy outlook: Richard Howard, Aurora

2019 energy outlook: Verv chief executive Peter Davies

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