Welcome to the third article in RenEnergy’s Future Voices content series. Every month, we’ll be talking to a different individual with a clear vision on how we can safeguard the future of the planet. Our Future Voice this month is Peter Gudde. Peter is the Energy Projects Manager at the Greater South East Energy Hub. This government-funded organisation is hosted by the LEPs in the south of England, and works with public sector organisations to fund local energy projects.
Can you please describe the role of the hub, and explain the work you do?
The Greater South East Energy Hub was established by central government in September 2018 to support the eleven Local Enterprise Partnerships and 146 local authorities across the South East as they deliver local energy projects in line with clean growth and Net Zero carbon ambitions, nationally and locally.
We try to do this in a range of ways depending on the project or the organisations that we are working with. For example, we may be looking at the feasibility of a renewable energy project, bringing together different organisations to bid for funding to explore innovative ways to achieve domestic energy retrofit, or identifying potential supply routes for decarbonising council waste trucks.
We are able to link up with the four other Energy Hubs across England and are involved in some international research projects through our support role. So, along with what’s happening in our region, we can access a wide variety of energy-based knowledge and practice to help our clients.
But, with everything we do we are always looking at how clean, local energy projects can be delivered at scale, quicker and easier for the public sector.
What is your role at the hub? What does an average day look like?
I am one four Energy Project Managers and I cover Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk. I have worked on Energy and Sustainability projects for over 25 years in the East of England, living “on the patch” on the Norfolk-Suffolk Border.
The Energy Hub team is spread across the South East and, like millions of other workers across the country since COVID-19, we have been adapting to new working patterns. Saying that, we have been home-enabled since we established. A typical day starts early from the desk next door to the kitchen. But, working on a specific project I will be on-site or with the client in a virtual sense!
Each project manager has a portfolio of energy projects reflecting what is happening in each of the local areas that they cover. At the moment, I am looking at things ranging from finding solutions for power network issues for new developments, assessing solar and battery opportunities, looking at how we can fast track heat network energy master planning to trying to understand what local energy skills and supply chains will look like under Net Zero commitments.
As well as our project-based support to public sector clients, each of us leads on an energy theme whether that’s a power grid, heat decarbonisation, transport or rural community energy for example.
We also work as a team on certain initiatives across the South East. We are currently collaborating with the Knowledge Transfer Network, which is part of Innovate UK, to find solutions to three challenges; grid constraints, decarbonising large engines and deep home energy retrofit and supply chains.
The subject area and geography of the South East is huge so there is always something new and challenging to work on.
Could you tell me about any of the clean energy projects funded by the hub?
We are currently supporting two projects with funding. One is a new large mixed development in Essex which already incorporates a heat network but has a power connection problem. We are part-funding feasibility studies to see if a microgrid is feasible.
We have separately funded a study to develop a zero-carbon masterplan for a new commercial development site in Suffolk. These sites share a lot of characteristics with other sites across the South East. So, we hope to be able to use some of the learning to benefit other local authorities and their stakeholders.
What (if any) differences are there in the ways that urban or rural communities may benefit from renewable energies?
Each place is different. Although the solutions may already be available, they will need to be tailored to local conditions
Take one technology, solar PV for example. Towns are generally more likely to have more opportunities for roof-mounted installations compared to villages which may be able to access land, through the parish or a supportive landowner. If its heat, the view around heat pumps as the primary decarbonising technology may play out differently in an urban compared to a rural community with considerations around access to a power network that can cope with additional load, the affordability of the technology, and its effectiveness in housing estates compared to individual dwellings in a village.
One thing that will be the biggest challenge, irrespective of location, will be the individual householder’s appetite and ability to install renewable technology, whether that’s solar or heating.
What do you think the future of energy in East Anglia looks like?
We have both great opportunities and as well as big challenges ahead in East Anglia. We lead the way in large-scale renewable energy generation as we are at the centre of the largest global market for offshore wind. At the other end of the spectrum, we have lots of local community energy opportunities with the potential for local people to participate given the right conditions. Our support through the Rural Communities Energy Fund is one way communities can look to a new energy future.
But we have a massive set of tasks ahead of us to make the progress that’s needed for a Zero Carbon East Anglia, whatever that looks like. Some residents, communities, and local businesses could be left behind if we don’t find energy solutions that benefit everyone. We cannot afford that to happen.
What are some achievable steps that businesses can take to use energy more efficiently and greenly?
Firstly, for a business that is struggling to keep trading at the moment thinking about energy is probably the last thing on their mind. But, knowing how much and where energy is used in your business is a really important starting point to valuing both any energy investment savings and how it can improve the bottom line.
Doing the energy-efficiency improvements like installing LED lighting or insulating the building as a first step, maybe with a bit of financial support if available, will make investing in renewable power or heat easier as well as cheaper.
Schemes like BEE Anglia are there for businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk to make it really easy to get the information they need to start making energy savings from Day 1.
It’s also worth doing this ahead of the competition as it could be what your supply chain wants to see. Corporate and retail customers are becoming increasingly more discerning about the credentials of their suppliers. Even if trading conditions are hard at the moment the long-term trend is to decarbonise and not just to meet environmental obligations; it will be good for sales.
Once you can see the way ahead and someone can make it easy for you, taking the first steps to become a zero-carbon business should become easier.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the interviewee. If you’d like to be part of RenEnergy’s Future Voices series, email Melissa.