Reliance on a small handful of utilities has failed to meet our low-carbon targets, so we should open the market to support independent project developers who can seize this opportunity.
The main problems with relying on utilities to build the low-carbon solutions of the future are ones of size, speed, cost and diversity. In the case of renewables, utility companies are only interested in investing in or developing projects of a particular size to achieve an economy of scale. These are slow to get off the ground and carry a financial risk most are unwilling to carry. Without a higher price put on carbon emissions or increased renewable subsidies, utilities cannot make the investment to meet renewable targets, causing many to cancel projects.
By contrast, independent developers focus on smaller projects with lower financial risks, which are quicker to get through planning and buy equipment for. Each project may be smaller in output, but with a far higher number of potential developers, the aggregate results can plug a gap in our energy supplies and do so quicker than any company could build a nuclear power station.
A decentralised energy-supplier model could quickly grow if the corporate sector is given the right incentives and motivation to invest in its generation capacity. But to accelerate the decentralisation and decarbonisation of our energy supply, we must first decentralise ownership and generation.
Jo Butlin, SmartestEnergy