Summoning the hive – Connecting Britain’s energy system community
Britain is at the forefront of a low-carbon energy system transformation. The amount of electricity coming from low-carbon generators, such as nuclear plants, wind turbines and solar panels, has doubled over the last decade, from 25% in 2009 to 53% in 2018. As a result, carbon intensity halved from nearly 500 to 217 grams of CO2 per kWh (Electric Insights).
However, as an island with limited interconnection to its neighbours, a further reduction down to 100 g/kWh by 2030 (Fifth Carbon Budget) is challenging due to the limited ability to import electricity when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.
Individually, Britain’s academics, businesses and policy-makers are world-leading, but the communities are silo-ed. Britain lacks a close-knit energy system community that can easily discuss transformation pathways. The missing link is a platform that offers a direct communication channel between experts of all sectors and connects them to openly discuss ongoing work. That’s why Iain Staffell, Malte Jansen and I have set up Power Swarm.
Power Swarm is an open, free network of energy system transformation experts across academia, industry and policy. It has two key components:
An e-mail list: Every Power Swarm member can write to this list to advertise jobs, papers, conferences, etc. and ask questions related to energy system transformation.
Regular workshops: Covering a range of topics, our workshops host academic, industry and policy experts to speak about their ongoing work. Two hours with five presentations of ten minutes ensure a concise format that allows for real, content-based, cross-sectoral discussions. No need for shiny result slides, rather a discussion of current roadblocks.
Our email list is an amazing resource, leveraging ‘swarm intelligence’ or the ‘hive mind’ for better information exchange and more efficient problem-solving. When I asked the group about recent reports on the amount of storage required in future energy system scenarios, I received more than 15 reports I hadn’t been aware of. That’s my PhD literature review sorted!
Last Power Swarm workshop on Hydrogen on 21st February 2019.The workshops are proving equally useful. We have held four workshops and are seeing attendances of 20 to 30 people. I think what has helped us is the breadth of topics we have covered including modelling renewables, electricity storage, energy trading and hydrogen. I have not seen a comparable forum where experts across academia, industry and policy can discuss so easily about energy system transformation. We have set a preliminary schedule of events and mapped out what topics we plan to discuss. Suggestions for topics or to host a workshop are always welcome.
This article first appeared as Energy Futures Blog post.