“Decentralized” Energy: The UK Leads the Way

Photo by CMG0220. Some rights reserved.

Often a development in the energy industry is chosen to be spotlighted in the Green Mien for the scope of its impact, but that is not always required. Some stories deserve to be told for their potential to describe one or two small threads that may prove to hold together a complex quilt – this is the case with today’s post. Environmental Finance has a piece about small energy projects in the UK installed at major energy-consuming locations like hospitals, manufacturers, and retailers, into which investment is pouring.

Sites like food retailer Waitrose’s store on the Isle of Wight host energy centers powered by available fuel (biomass from local timber at the Waitrose plant), which they call decentralized energy centers. Usually with thermal energy capacity between 1MW and 10MW, the centers generate power for their central energy need and sell surplus energy to nearby consumers. Hosts of these plants, the big hospitals and factories, see the benefits of mitigating against rising prices, securing energy supply, and potentially reducing environmental impact.

Because the projects in the UK are financed by multiple lenders before being converted to a long-term supply contract, the host energy-guzzlers are spared investing any capital. Investors in London are supposedly “queuing up” to finance these projects, whose feasibility has grown rapidly over the past few years. The security of the supply contracts attracts some investors, but the projects’ potential to address future energy costs and supply security are also encouraging businesses to consider an on-site energy facility.

Resources across the country are pouring into finding and developing new ways to power our lives, and the UK’s work in developing decentralized energy projects might just be blazing the path to the power plant of my dreams: just big enough to light a Walmart Supercenter.

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