Mike Tivey, Managing Director of MITIE Asset Management, discusses what he learned at the recent 'Food for Thought' dinner.
Picture the scene. A dimly lit pub in Islington. Fantastic food. Buzzing conversation.
This was the unlikely setting for a night dissecting the topic of local energy generation!
Our ‘Food for Thought’ dinner in partnership with 2degrees departed from the traditional corporate dinner or seminar. Presentations given whilst propping up the bar and projected on to a large table cloth, relaxed but intelligent conversation over really delicious food and thankfully no feedback plenary at the end of the evening.
It was exactly for these reasons that the event stood out for me. I’ve been to countless corporate dinners and seminars where everyone is badged up and duly partakes in their working group, but you sense everyone is sleepwalking through the motions. Maybe the wine which flowed like the conversation helped, but I’m pleased it wasn’t just me who felt this way – I’ve had lots of kind emails from guests expressing the same sentiment.
I had worked out and shared with guests during my brief presentation the demographics of the audience which I had divided into three broad groups – adopters (43%), namely those businesses and organisations who had already invested in decentralised energy infrastructure; advocates (38%) – stakeholders who were working towards the advancement of the industry and enablers (24%) – the funders and lawyers who make the deals possible.
I shared that breakdown, because whilst it showed we were a broad church, it also demonstrated that we had everyone in the room we needed to make a collective difference.
We had set the opening question over starters of ‘How can the decentralised energy sector reach its full potential and make a significant contribution to the transition to a low carbon economy?’ I’m pleased to say that, whilst this question provoked a variety of views and ideas, the overwhelming sentiment was that this sector does indeed have an important role to play.
This had been echoed by the opening presentation from David Metcalfe, CEO of independent energy and sustainability analyst Verdantix, who had outlined the shift he saw from a centralised to a decentralised UK energy system.
What followed over the main course was a variety of conversations about the barriers and challenges individuals from a number of different sectors and backgrounds faced over their energy management and challenges.
Knowledge, experience and attitudes towards decentralised energy varied greatly and this was one of the most insightful parts of the evening. Whilst there was a diversity of opinion and experience what struck me was the overwhelming sense of shared purpose in the room.
As I travelled home that evening my thoughts returned to the question we set over starters. There is a general consensus that for any industry to gain market traction it requires a mix of political will and support, a level of new market entrants to create competition as well as willing buyers.
You also need game changers - organisations and individuals who are willing to step a different path, the trail blazers in their sectors, the visionaries if you like. I believe we had a healthy proportion of those in the dimly lit pub last week. Whilst this subject often keeps me awake late at night I slept well last Thursday night safe in that knowledge.