The future change that happened yesterday and what (some of) it means
The 2003 White Paper heralded a revolution for energy. In place of gas and coal there were to be renewable generators.
It is now clear that what government meant by ‘renewable power’ was big renewable power. A bit of that happened with off-shore wind farms, but
almost all renewable generators built since that time have been small, have been connected to the distribution network - and they have changed the shape of the energy
A second revolution is well under way, before the dust has settled from the first one. Batteries are being installed as (small and large) stand-alone
generation units; they are being combined with solar power to turn its intermittent power into firm power, so scotching the need for new market indices for the different kinds of power;
and they are being used by the network companies to avoid costly system upgrades (with, it is projected, a saving of up to £8 billion per annum).
But these revolutions will be dwarfed over the next short few years by the changes that will happen as electric vehicles (EVs) become
standard. The network companies are now worried about future rising demand for electricity caused by EVs. They forget that converting crude oil to petrol consumes huge amounts of
electricity. They forget, too, that most cars are idle most of the time. Most EVs will at any time be fully charged and can function as batteries capable of selling their power to the network or to
users needing it. It requires regulation and rules and arrangements – and some IT: but these things will follow as EVs make their mark.
The future of the car industry is known: all cars will be EV, although some believe there will be hydrogen-fuelled cars as well. The future of the oil industry – now
referred to as ‘the death of big oil’ – is also known, as the title suggests. There is a view that volumes of cars will fall as EV self-driving becomes predictably safe.
The big debate is not about any of this, it’s about when. Some say it has started and will accelerate fast, just like mobile phones and digital cameras. Others are
more cautious and look forward to 2030 or even later.
The release of an affordable EV (the Tesla) convinces me that the fundamental change needed to kick-start an accelerated revolution has already