We are moving towards a new decade where dramatic shifts in the ways we work, consume and communicate will move at an increasingly fast pace due to accelerated technological change. Next generation economies will be shaped by digital advancement, renewable energy systems, space technology and businesses based around technological collaboration and trust. The traditional carbon fuelled manufacturing industries which once powered the UK’s wealth are already undergoing seismic transformations, re-calibrating the balance of the national and global economy in an ongoing process of innovation and renewal.
So how does energy feature in the future economy of Cornwall?
Ensuring a reliable, sustainable energy supply is a global challenge and this ambitious coastal region is at the forefront of marine technology when it comes to utilising its most powerful natural resource: the sea.
Cornwall is home to the world’s most technologically advanced site for developing and testing offshore renewable energy, Wave Hub Ltd which helps wave and floating offshore wind developers from around the world test in open sea conditions. Wave Hub’s test site has some of the best conditions in Europe, supported by an in-house team of specialists with access to funding support, cutting edge academic research and proximity to a number of ports and associated infrastructures.
The development of offshore marine renewables is a cornerstone of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership’s Economic Plan for the region. It’s a priority development area for Cornwall Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly whose Marine Renewable Energy (MRE) Roadmap sets out how the public and private sector can work together to deliver the next steps towards the commercialisation of offshore and marine energy generation solutions.
The 5 inhabited islands of the Scilly archipelago are the centre of a smart energy project, The Smart Islands Programme, which aims to transform the islands’ infrastructure providing a model for the rest of the UK and beyond. This project demonstrates how other communities can profit from a rapid transition from being carbon intensive to having a low carbon footprint.
The aims include the creation of a local energy market with an ‘Internet of Things’ platform that will control energy loads in houses, businesses, electric vehicles and other connected infrastructure. Its goal, set for 2025, is to provide 40 percent of electricity demand using renewables, to cut electricity bills by 40 percent, and for 40 percent of vehicles on the islands to be electric or low-carbon.
The programme is being delivered through a partnership including Hitachi Europe Ltd, Tresco Estate, the Council of the Isles of Scilly, the Islands’ Partnership and the Duchy of Cornwall, with UK smart energy businesses, Moixa Technology and PassivSystems, as project partners. There is further partnership opportunity, with more organisations expected to join as the project develops.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), the UK’s leading progressive think tank states in their report ‘Future Proof Britain in the 2020s’:
‘The Anthropocene age – the new geological epoch in which human activity is the central and destructive influence on the Earth’s ecosystems – will require us to fundamentally change how we produce and consume energy in the 2020s. This imperative will set the UK on a trajectory towards a radically different, low-carbon and increasingly local and decentralised energy system. This change will – if a just transition to a low carbon future can be effectively managed – bring immense social, environmental and economic benefits. In the process, responding to climate change will change how we work, consume, travel and live.’
With the UK legally obliged to cut its current annual carbon emissions by 31% by 2032 and climate change science pressing for swifter action, there is a strong imperative to find solutions to meet the world’s increasing energy requirements in a way that is both sustainable and affordable. With even traditionally oil-based economies like Saudi Arabia exploring and moving towards low-carbon and digital models, the demand for intelligent, flexible innovations is growing rapidly.
Centrica, the energy and services company that includes British Gas and Hive is working on a £19m pioneering trial in Cornwall that will test the use of flexible demand, generation and storage across both domestic and business sectors.
Jorge Pikunic, Managing Director of Centrica Distributed Energy & Power says, ‘This is a truly unique opportunity for us to work together with local businesses and homes and explore new approaches that help us all take control of how we use, generate, and store energy in Cornwall and beyond.’
The Cornwall Local Energy Market (LEM) will see the development of a virtual marketplace, providing participants with a platform to buy and sell energy; whether to the grid or to the wholesale energy market. Delivered in partnership with the local distribution network operator Western Power Distribution and alongside National Grid and the University of Exeter, the programme has already signed its first official participant at the Olde House holiday cottage site near Wadebridge. A 600-acre working farm, the agri-business will use energy storage machines supplied by redT energy to better manage the energy it uses from its own solar generation and the grid. Through the LEM project, The Olde House and other participants will be able to take part in energy trading and arbitrage in the future, buying and selling energy with others in the scheme and adding an income stream by doing so.
Programme Director Matt Hastings reflects on the first few months of activity: ‘We have a simple mission. To help build the energy system of the future. We’ve built an amazing team of local experts, all of whom are committed to Cornwall, renewables and making a difference. We’ve made good progress with engaging participants, installing technology and developing the LEM platform, but this is just the beginning. We have a lot more to come.’
He continues: ‘We hear a lot about the pace of change and how unprecedented this is. This is the reality in the energy industry today. What was recently considered the future (like storage and microgrids), is now considered the past. Things we thought were 10 years away (like peer-to-peer energy sales and local energy markets) are happening now. The future is coming at us faster than ever before. It is one of the most exciting periods to be involved in energy, but also one of the most challenging. A challenge the LEM team is very well positioned to address.’
New energy solutions, developed at a local level, will have a global impact. For Cornwall, a rapidly growing hub of innovation and expertise in renewables and sustainability, the halo effect is already apparent as the region is attracting cutting edge businesses looking to relocate and invest.
Find out more by getting in touch with the team today.
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