John Forster: Balanced smart transition required for an affordable energy future
The energy crisis will only worsen unless we offer a balanced smart transition where consumers decide their own energy future, says John Forster from the Forster Group.
Energy prices skyrocketing, rising inflation rates and a potential year-long recession, the immediate economic picture for the UK looks bleak.
With more bad news appearing on our TV screens and front pages every day, consumers and business owners are desperately trying to plan for a difficult few years ahead.
It’s undeniable that the energy we have used for most of the last century is changing. More consumers understand that carbon-based fuels need to be phased out faster and that our increasingly electric energy future should come from renewable sources.
While overall awareness of alternative energy sources is growing, a fundamental issue remains and it’s contributing to the spreading unrest and panic. We haven’t done enough to educate consumers on how they can have greater control of their own energy affordability, using different sources of renewable energy, flexibly.
Established by myself over 30 years ago, Forster Group has grown to become Scotland’s largest integrated solar and roofing business. Not only do we design, supply and install solar panels to thousands of new build homes across the country, we work closely with the farming and commercial sectors to provide tailored renewable energy solutions.
As we enter our fourth decade, we are busier than ever and this continued growth has equipped us with the necessary tools to help deliver a smart energy future and the expertise to work with government, policy makers and energy providers to develop viable solutions.
Sadly there is simply not enough engagement or clarity from government on how we can use different types of renewable energy to achieve a net zero transition and crucially make it affordable at every level of society. Nor is there a clear willingness to offer solar a seat at the table.
The current trajectory that we are on doesn’t represent a smart transition or an affordable energy future.
Obsessive windfarm infrastructure installation on large scale sites is simply not generating the electricity required at the right time or the right place when they are situated miles off the coast. Therefore, we need to look at adopting a more balanced approach, combining energy generation, consumption and storage to help spread the load, and drive down costs.
As a country we joke about the lack of sunshine, but modern solar panels work even in cloudy weather and, believe it or not, rain can even help keep them clean.
Sadly, so far, the consumers benefiting most from the transition to renewables are those who have already invested in solar panels. From the time of installation, these people knew how much energy was going to be generated and how much it was going to cost. This cost is even lower for new installations today, and consumers could be paying a fraction of what they are from energy suppliers.
Solar, and its effectiveness as an energy source, needs to be much more visible so that consumers can make an informed decision on whether to invest in their own flexible energy future.
With prices for traditional carbon-based energy soaring, consumers are quickly realising that this continued increase simply isn’t sustainable and they are looking to the government and policy makers for help.
If we don’t crack the affordability challenge, then fuel poverty will stretch much further across society and have a significant impact for all. There can be no certainty for those consumers who are reliant on policy makers to show what an affordable energy future looks like. We are simply getting a flavour of how difficult the situation could be for decades to come.
- John Forster is chair and founder of Forster Group