'Spend billions on energy efficiency', urges Eon UK's CEO, Michael Lewis in an exclusive column for Utility Week ahead of his keynote talk at our Energy Summit in Westminster on 13 June.

There can be no argument, climate change is the defining issue of our era, certainly for our industry. It is both a global and a local issue and we all can be a significant part of the solution.

Yet the energy system in which we operate is still out of date – largely based on fossil fuels and large, distant power stations. It remains incredibly wasteful. We need a transformational, not incremental, response.

Most of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are still from the production and consumption of energy – driving cars, vans and lorries, manufacturing goods or simply heating our homes. It can only be lowered if we all become more energy efficient and switch to low-carbon energy sources.

That means a future in which we use less, and what we use comes from lower-carbon sources – a future for the next generation. We should start by increasing the rate of energy efficiency installations to millions of homes up and down the country.

Energy efficiency is vital to meeting carbon targets but is also a no-brainer for reducing bills, improving people’s wellbeing and delivering benefits to local economies. At Eon we’re one of the leaders in innovation in energy efficiency, with more than 1.3 million installations in the UK to date.

National infrastructure priority

To get to that transformational scale we need to make energy efficiency a national infrastructure priority. We need to see an increase in the Energy Company Obligation funding pot from £640 million to a number in the billions. We believe this can be funded by better targeting the Winter Fuel Payment to those who truly need it, freeing up funds for extra household energy efficiency programmes for the fuel poor, and ring-fencing part of our health and social care budgets to invest in making homes warmer, better insulated and with efficient heating systems.

People need to be given the power to improve their homes, whether this is through tax incentives such as stamp duty rebates or stronger regulation including minimum performance standards to reflect the value in energy investments. Government-supported energy investments are essential, such as Green Mortgages, a “help to improve” scheme to sit alongside the “help to buy” or a government-backed investment ISA.

To help deliver these we’re already involved in a number of projects ranging from a pilot with Mauer to create cheaper and quicker-to install solid wall insulation to a project with the European Space Agency to use satellite imaging data to help local authorities target fuel poverty support to those in most need.

Embracing electrification

The best option for decarbonising heat is electrification. We need action to support hybrid heat pumps. We need to build on the success of the smart meter rollout, instead of focusing on the problems, and make smart meters the new normal for everyone post-2020. The government should target the end of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, not 2040. And we must create a “flexibility first” market-based approach to solving network issues.

The next opportunity is helping our customers to have greater control over the energy they need, generating and even storing renewable energy at home or in business through solar and battery options, heat pumps and electric vehicle tariffs, greater efficiency in business management and community-scale district heating schemes, helping to create smart sustainable homes, businesses and cities.

Building lasting relationships with customers and designing products and solutions that deliver value today, tomorrow and beyond. We see the future of energy as decarbonised, decentralised and digitalised and we are working to deliver a smart, sustainable and personalised solution to all our customers.

The energy revolution is under way and we’ve a big part to play in this. Imagine making every home, business and even city energy efficient; putting solar panels on every roof, providing access to electric vehicle charging and local, renewable generation to all.

We’re already making this a reality for our customers and one example is our Future Energy Home collaboration with Berkeley Homes. This has seen us install a range of smart energy solutions in their innovative, award-winning house. All solutions are connected to Eon’s home energy dashboard which offers intuitive visualisation and control of installed solutions without having to navigate a maze of separate apps for each piece of technology.

We’re using our expertise to partner with developers and local authorities and provide solutions that enable them to deliver their sustainable strategies. Improving air quality and transforming and regenerating their cities with innovative renewable technologies and enabling the electrification of transport. Creating sustainable and cleaner cities that are great to live, work and play in, where existing businesses thrive and new businesses invest.

Now established as the leading energy event for UK policymakers and industry leaders, the 2019 Utility Week Energy Summit will bring together 150+ key stakeholders to debate these key issues and more. The event will take place in London on 13 June. To find out more read our preview piece here. To book, visit our event website

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