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Inenco’s Summer Utilities Forum 2017: The highlights

Last week, we held our second annual Summer Utilities Forum, and we’re pleased to say that it was a day filled with fascinating insights and thought-provoking discussions! This year’s focus was the future of business energy, and our wide range of speakers gave us a variety of different perspectives on how future changes could affect energy professionals.

It’s been great to hear the overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received from those who attended, and we want to make sure that those who couldn’t be there on the day don’t miss out. So, here are the highlights of the day:

Energy in the near future

Our first sessions looked at the issues that utilities professionals could face in the not-too-distant future. Inenco’s in-house experts – David Oliver and Matthew Osborne – provided valuable advice to businesses that are wondering what to expect in the next few years. They covered pressing issues such as new non-commodity charges and upcoming compliance deadlines, and looked further into the future with their predictions around whether coal will exit sooner than expected and what ‘unknowns’ we can expect to be clarified in the next few years.

We then heard from James Murray, editor of BusinessGreen, on what the energy and climate landscape could look like in a post-election, post-Brexit world. While he was keen to stress that it’s very difficult to make predictions in such uncertain times, he is hopeful that the Clean Growth Plan will be published shortly and that it will contain some encouraging new plans for areas such as renewables, smart grids and electric vehicles. He did, however, voice concerns that climate-sceptics could inhibit our progression towards decarbonisation. Thankfully, he also had some useful advice for businesses on how they should respond to ongoing political uncertainty – from believing what politicians say to embracing low carbon technologies.

Looking further ahead

The afternoon sessions took a further-reaching look at future changes in the energy industry, as far out as 2030. Futurologist Dean van Leeuwen set the scene by imagining what the future will look like for UK businesses. He demonstrated how we can make informed predictions about where the marketplace is heading by tracking the five disruptive forces that he believes change the world of work: technology, institutional change, demography, environment and ethics and shifting societal values.

Next up was Laura Sandys, who brought some interesting insight into how new players and fresh thinking will help us to deliver a more productive energy system. Using her experience as a former MP and PPS to the Minister for Energy and Climate Change, and current CEO of Challenging Ideas, Laura raised questions such as whether the UK’s grid infrastructure is overengineered. She believes that the future of energy is exciting, but also that we need to have a vision for market design and regulation in areas like big data.

Laura’s talk was followed by a lively debate on the innovation and technologies that are driving the UK’s energy transition. While the experts were enthusiastic about the growth of renewables and the shift towards digital in the UK, they recognised that a new energy system will bring new issues we haven’t faced before. There was a discussion around creating an Energy Agency similar to the Environment Agency; this would be a standalone agency that is responsible for protecting the customer across all of the utilities. E&Y’s Richard Tarboton agreed that protective mechanisms are needed within the energy market to ensure that innovation doesn’t lead to some companies seeing huge wins while others lose out, and the experts also highlighted the need for policies and regulation around the growing amounts of big data.

We finished the day with a talk from Lee Warren, a behavioural psychologist who focused on how the role of the business energy professional is changing, and how the skillset required to fulfil these roles will also change. In an increasingly digital world, Lee stressed that those who can communicate effectively will become rarer and more valuable, and he taught us how to use his ‘HAM PIE’ (Hearts and Minds, Pictures, Interest and Enthusiasm) technique to engage people’s hearts and minds.

All of the speakers’ slides are available to view here.

Getting prepared

While all of our speakers may have agreed that the future is uncertain, the overall takeaway from the Summer Utilities Forum was that businesses don’t have to move forward blindly – there are ways to prepare and safeguard a business for the future, no matter how hazy that future may be.

At Inenco, we know how challenging energy professionals’ roles can be, particularly in today’s fast-moving energy environment. That’s why we’re producing our Future Utilities Manager report, with analysis of the changing nature of the role of the energy manager and insight into how energy managers of today can future-proof their skillset so they’re prepared for change over the coming years.

Make sure your business is prepared for the future – register today to be the first to receive a free copy of the report.