Distributed energy: a business case or a bigger case?

Young business owner

The Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) has come out strongly with a call for improved incentives and fewer barriers for smaller firms generating their own energy.

The trade association talks of worries over security of supply, and with 88 per cent of its members not generating their own energy, suggests that a re-think of the UK's next Carbon Plan is needed. FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said:

“Our research shows small firms want energy security to be a priority. Brexit raises yet more questions about the UK’s future power supply. Infrastructure costs must be shared out equitably with small firms playing a pivotal role in securing Britain’s energy future.” Mike Cherry, National Chairman, Federation for Small Businesses

Community benefits

In general, we'd be supportive of small businesses getting on board with the distributed generation agenda. Higher numbers of smaller generators putting clean energy on the grid and making an impact locally can only be encouraged. 

But while it's understandable that the FSB would want to put across a firm case for their members being at the heart of Government industrial strategy, getting individuals and community groups involved in our energy future is also vital. 

While households and communities aren't a part of this analysis, they need to be part of the bigger vision of local generation. 

From playing a potentially significant role in reducing domestic emissions to democratising energy, there are plenty of reasons why local groups, social housing providers and the green energy enthusiast down the street should be involved in energy, alongside businesses big and small.

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Support for those that need it 

Our vision is about supporting those less able to take a stake in a low-carbon future. 

Households and community groups don’t necessarily have the resources to get connected and generating in the same way that businesses do. Then, there's the question of wider community benefit – and when local groups get together to become energy suppliers, the benefits often go to other social projects.

Making investment count

The FSB points to the price of infrastructure investment, and urges the Government to make sure the benefits are spread equitably. Again, we'd agree with the broad idea.

The fuel-poor and tenants tend to be hit the hardest where energy is concerned – so another key priority as smaller players join the grid is to put a particular focus on supporting those that might otherwise miss out, providing extra support for vulnerable consumers, for instance, by providing quality, impartial advice.

Everyone could have a role

There's absolutely no doubt that businesses, big and small, are going to be important players in overhauling the UK's energy supply and boosting energy efficiency over the coming years. 

But the smart energy transition needs to be open and accessible to—and benefit—all groups, not just early adopters and those able-to-pay. A distributed energy network should represent a varied picture of the nation – and we hope that with the right structure and support network in place, it will. 

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