That was the message that rang through the halls of the Science Museum in London at EDF Energy’s May 2019 Talk Power event. Welcoming more than 80 senior leaders and business influencers, Richard Hughes, Director of Sales and Marketing at EDF Energy, opened with a rallying call to action.
Climate change is the most important topic of our generation - and for the next generation, who are telling us that they want actions and not words. So tonight, we are going to shift from inspiration to action. We all have the opportunity to take advantage of our businesses’ ability to flex and, by doing so, strive together to meet our carbon targets and minimise – if not reverse – our impact on this planet.
In the speaker line-up were Caroline Bragg, Senior Policy Manager for the Association of Decentralised Energy (ADE); Sally Uren, Chief Executive of Forum for the Future; Devrim Celal, CEO of Upside Energy; and Vincent de Rul, Director of Energy Solutions at EDF Energy.
The venue was a fitting tribute to inspired, and inspiring, action through time. Guests were greeted in the Science Museum’s Energy Hall, which showcases the evolution of power production through the ages. Then drinks and canapes were served in the ‘Exploring Space’ Gallery, with its full-sized replica of the Eagle, which powered Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon 50 years ago. And finally, dinner was served between stirring speeches in the ‘Making of the Modern World’ Gallery.
Even more fitting was the timing of the event, marking the first week in history that Britain has been powered without coal.
So, no better time and no better stage for our speakers to inspire a room full of changemakers in business to adopt energy flexibility, one change at a time, and lead their sector.
An evening of inspiring talks from energy experts
Caroline Bragg opened with an acknowledgement that change in energy is the new norm. After all, the uncertainty of the energy market over the past few years is set to continue, she said, with policy changes and cost reviews still in progress.
“If we are committed to our carbon targets,” she said, “we must commit to a new mindset. We need to think about electricity in a fundamentally different way, so that we can transform how we participate in a system that is also changing.” That rethink, she believes, involves a shift in focus from generation to demand.
“Now, we despatch generation to meet demand. But soon, we’ll have to despatch demand to meet generation. Think about what that means. If you’re despatching demand rather than generation, policy has to start working better for demand, markets have to start working better for demand, and most of all, money is going to flow towards demand.”
Of course, it’s all very well to change our own mindsets and commit to adopting flexibility as part of our business-as-usual practice, but we also need to convince our teams to follow us. And that brings new challenges.
Sally Uren stepped up to tackle the tactics commonly used to resist change, suggesting the most effective way to win people over is to use a combination of rational and emotional drivers
The first technique she shared was ‘excuse busting’ and she cited some of the more common excuses raised.
- The excuse: ‘My investors don’t care’
The counter: just cite the inarguable hard-hitting facts, such as the £7.2 trillion which is being divested away from fossil-fuels and doesn’t bear well for other sectors with high-carbon footprints.
- The excuse: ‘My consumers don’t care'
The counter: refer them to the rising consumer movements, including those schoolchildren who are on strike, taking the action that their parents and grandparents are too complacent to.
- The excuse: ‘They won’t pay more for sustainable goods and services’.
The counter: explain that they shouldn’t have to. If you’re inventive, you can make sustainable business affordable – after all, who can afford to do unsustainable business?
The second technique she shared was ‘push the care button’.
She mentioned how cultural changemakers, like Sir David Attenborough, are not only making people aware but making them care about the need for urgent action to avoid the catastrophic effects of climate change. And she explained two ways that we, too, can evoke an emotional response, which is critical to taking lasting action.
- The first is to help colleagues project themselves into tomorrow. “What kind of future do you want to leave for your children?” she demonstrated, “will it be civil unrest on a scorched earth? Alternatively, if businesses increasingly make the switch to low-carbon practices, will your business even survive?” In that context, the small changes required by businesses to adopt energy flexibility now seem much more do-able.
- The second way is to show them cases of success. After all, these offer more than just proof that it can be done, but also lessons in ‘how’.
How timely then that Devrim Celal of Upside Energy shared a case of success that EDF Energy are proud of: the Clayhill Solar Farm.
The project is the UK’s first subsidy-free solar and battery site and is the result of cross-industry collaboration between EDF Energy, Upside Energy and Anesco. Hailing the power of partnership, Devrim explained how cross-industry collaboration helped make what seemed impossible, possible: when the funding stopped, the partners kept the project going.
“When you’re a young, small platform,” he said, “you need partners to play with you. And in this case, our first partner was EDF Energy.”
Having grown up in EDF Energy’s incubator, Upside Energy had a platform that they believed was ready for market. It uses advanced algorithms and AI to match energy demand with the available supply. This helps to balance the Grid at peak demand and enables Upside Energy’s customers to benefit from additional revenue streams, as well as reduced energy costs and carbon emissions.
What Upside Energy needed next was a live project they could work on to demonstrate how the platform delivered in the real world. Anesco, the UK’s largest energy storage provider, had just such a project. They were looking for help in optimising the performance of one of their sites in Clayhill. And so the Clayhill Solar Farm project was born.
EDF Energy provided Anesco with direct access to wholesale energy markets, acting as the energy trading expert. Meanwhile, Upside Energy’s platform intelligently predicted peaks in supply and demand. The combined efforts meant renewable energy assets from the Clayhill site could be sold, shared and managed in a flexible, sustainable way.
Additionally, when market conditions became challenging, EDF Energy stepped up to offer a guaranteed floor-price for Clayhill’s energy, so the project could continue to thrive and generate sustainable income.
The result? Anesco benefitted from maximised returns and market stability, thanks to EDF Energy and Upside Energy’s combined support.
The evening was wrapped up by Vincent de Rul, EDF Energy’s Director of Energy Solutions. Having been inspired by the evening’s conversations, he attributed one word to each of the speakers.
For Caroline, it was ‘hope’ in the value of the future flexibility market. For Sally, it was ‘future’ - our need to build it, share in it, and take action for it. And for Devrim, it was ‘partnership’, as partnerships can give us the power to overcome our challenges, leverage the flexibility in our businesses, and build a future fit for our children.
“If we have hope and partnership,” he summarised, “we have a bright future.”
Vincent left us with an appeal to share our challenges and our stories on social media. “By doing that,” he said, “we can take this conversation out of this room and inspire action among our colleagues.”
“After all, we are a generation of businesses defined not by sector, size or ownership models. Instead we’re defined by a genuine care for our business’ impact on the world, and an ambition to make it one that leaves a legacy of sustainable success for our children.”
Click here to read our whitepaper "Positive Disruption - the power of flexibility in our low-carbon future", to find out more about how you can use flexibility to future-proof your business and secure sustainable growth, one change at a time.