Reader question: Where do you think the opportunity for public ownership exists in energy, and where might it be beneficial?

Utilities and utility regulation are facing dramatic change. The Labour Party wants to bring public ownership back. Local government is seizing the initiative, using utility services to leverage development. Meanwhile, new consultations  could see the shape of the regulatory landscape change for the first time in decades. With the help of market research company Accent, New Power sought views on these issues from our expert forum.

We asked five questions addressing how the public and private sector, and regional and national bodies, can work together to help the energy sector become more distributed, greener, smarter and more flexible. Subscribers can login to read the full report in the April issue.

This week we present some of those comments and we’d like to add yours.

Q1: Where do you think the opportunity for public ownership exists in energy, and where might it be beneficial?

“Using private capital in a well-regulated market environment can work if controls are in place to stop private sector organisations playing the system”.

“Where strategic planning of public good is required – eg independent system operator.“

“Research into decentralised energy emphasises multiple energy system benefits including reducing energy demand from retrofit, grid balancing services from local generation and storage, and utilising ‘waste’ heat and renewable energy sources. … these benefits are more straightforward to plan, coordinate and deliver under public ownership models”

“The smart grids of the future need active public participation. Direct ownership by the public – of generation, networks or new energy service companies – could help engage people, restore trust in the energy system, and ensure that the benefits of the energy transition are realised for all.” 

“Where inequalities could take hold, for example in access of the fuel poor or non-homeowners to new technologies that could mitigate their adverse position.” 

“Where private sector ownership can’t deliver policy outcomes quickly enough,” 

“enabling scale up of emerging or uneconomic technologies, or facilitating construction of long-term assets such as new nuclear. “ 

What’s your view? Use the comment box below to add your voice

Further reading

Q1: What lessons should we learn about public or social ownership from previous experience?

Has utility regulation failed? National Infrastructure Commission calls for evidence

OPINION: Do we need to redefine the social contract between utilities and consumers?

Heat networks should be regulated by Ofgem, says CMA

Interview: Catherine Mitchell, Professor of Energy Policy, University of Exeter

Interview: Allison Roche, Policy Officer, Unison



2 comments for “Reader question: Where do you think the opportunity for public ownership exists in energy, and where might it be beneficial?

  1. Dr Tony West
    April 9, 2019 at 8:51 AM

    Public ownership often sounds like a logical thing to do, though in reality it stifles innovation and fails on business efficiency. The issues with our energy market are not ownership related but a failing market, where price signals are dampened or even restricted and not even supply/demand related. We need a proper study to understand what the real supply/demand underlying is – in my view it isn’t energy but capacity, though capacity is effectively centrally controlled and not subject to proper market mechanisms.

  2. New Power
    April 8, 2019 at 4:05 PM

    It depends on what you mean by “Public” – are we talking about renationalisation (I seriously hope not); local authority (Hmmm, maybe) or community ownership (my preferred). Maybe because I live in a rural community. Rural areas historically lag behind cities (for reasons around population density & demand). It is probably much more expensive to maintain and deliver a reliable energy supply in rural locations (note to self to go and research this better) per consumer. So it makes sense to me to look at local schemes tailored for the location. I live about half way down a large hill, we have a burn that runs through the village and the side of the hill we are on faces south and south west. So, a small but efficient hydro scheme, coupled with a solar and wind setup, with battery storage making use of one of the derelict barns would be ideal. But how does or would a small rural community of say 60 households fund and finance such a scheme that will undoubtedly generate more energy than needed? I think the opportunity for public ownership would be most beneficial in rural areas but the economics of it, specifically access to funding to setup it would, probably make it a non starter for most rural communities, so maybe not the best.
    Andy Corkhill

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