“emerging Trends In Energy Financing And Investment” – Britain is at war with Napoleon and it will be another three years that will mark the final defeat of the French Emperor at the famous Battle of Waterloo.

King George III is on the throne and has recently granted a royal charter to a company that promises to deliver a technology that will transform the streets of London, the rest of Britain and eventually the world: gas lighting.

“emerging Trends In Energy Financing And Investment”

After receiving its Royal Charter, the Gas Light and Coke Company – what we know today as British Gas – began building a large number of small gas works across the capital to meet the energy needs of the various boroughs locally. It also begins installing gas lights throughout London to light city streets and reduce crime rates.

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Cross section of The Exeter House, Bacon Works, 1870. Image courtesy of Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History

This vision of the past with energy resources close to the point of use also indicates how energy companies will operate in the future.

There will be fewer of the large centralized power stations that dominated the twentieth century, and in their place a diverse network of homes, businesses and small power plants generating electricity.

This transformation of energy networks is happening worldwide, driven by three major trends: decarbonization, decentralization and digitization.

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By 2040, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that more than half of global energy capacity will come from renewable and flexible sources, such as battery storage and demand side response.

At 7% of global capacity, flexible sources such as batteries and demand side response – where homes and businesses automatically reduce energy consumption during peak times – would account for the same level of global energy capacity as oil-fired power plants today.

And more than half of this energy storage capacity will come from small-scale batteries installed by homes and businesses along with rooftop solar panels.

This trend is moving away from large power plants and toward smaller, decentralized energy systems in both developed and developing nations.

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Global renewable energy investment has increased every year since the 2015 Paris Agreement, where countries agreed to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 2017 was a record year with global investment in renewable energy reaching $279.8 billion.

In developing nations, solar panels are providing cheap, local energy in the absence of grid infrastructure. The United Nations puts the total global solar power capacity added in 2017 as more than coal, gas and nuclear power plants combined.

The declining cost of renewable energy technologies and the availability of technologies such as batteries that facilitate the storage of electricity have accelerated the decarbonization trend.

This accelerates decentralization, as renewable energies are by their nature small and spread over the equivalent capacity provided by conventional power plants.

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Helping electricity grid operators balance supply and demand, the rate of decarbonisation and decentralization has been accelerated by digital technology, empowering people to save or earn money by being more flexible in their energy use.

The principle of supporting the grid as a consumer rather than as a producer is called demand side response. During peak times where the grid is struggling to meet demand, users can automatically cut their energy use and sell this reduced consumption to the grid.

The sale of energy savings from users to the grid is typically delivered by an emerging class of companies known as demand response aggregators.

Europe’s largest demand side response aggregator, REstore, was acquired in 2017. CEO Iain Conn says he expects it to become one of the fastest growing elements of the energy market over the next few years.

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“Demand response aggregation and being able to sell reduced energy use to the grid operator is becoming big business,” Cohn says.

Demand side feedback exemplifies the decentralization trend, with many small adjustments and contributions spread evenly across a grid that would cost hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pounds to build.

It is estimated that globally the energy savings created by demand side response will increase sevenfold in the next five years, and by 2025 its market value will be £6 billion.

Cohn says that connecting this diverse network of power generation, whether it’s virtual or real in the form of onsite renewables, will be a key role for energy companies in the coming decades.

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“Many customers have built solar panels on the roof of their factories, or two or three wind turbines,” he says.

“But they don’t know how to adapt to the energy market. They want the ability to access additional value through that. It’s called the path to market service.”

As demand-side response aggregators emerge as a new type of energy company for the decentralized era, a new breed of companies are providing these routes to market services for small generators.

Neas is able to take all the big data coming from smart meters and Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices to build an accurate real-time picture of energy demand, as well as demand trends. Neas also uses software to combine this data with smart algorithms that judge weather patterns, so it knows how much output any wind turbine or solar panel is likely to generate and when.

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This helps balance the grid by matching supply and demand more precisely. And for small energy producers, it helps them sell their energy at the most accurate market price.

The growth in services supplied by companies such as Nias is driven by the rapid improvement and increasing availability of smart digital technology for both energy companies and their customers.

From smart home products like Hive, which allow homeowners to control energy use from their smartphones, to companies like Restore, which uses artificial intelligence to calculate how much energy capacity a factory can provide as a virtual power plant. Energy, like all other sectors, is going digital.

Microsoft National Technology Officer Michael Wignall says the combination of increased computing power, cloud computing and all the data generated by IoT devices is rapidly transforming how companies and entire industries work.

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“AI and big data allow organizations to come up with different business models and different offerings that they couldn’t do before because they didn’t have the insight about what.

And this is what companies in the energy sector need to do, because the expectations of customers are changing the meaning of engaging in business.

When a person engages with Google, it’s always through one of its platforms, whether it’s searching for something online, opening their email, or finding something on a map.

This idea of ​​businesses as digital platforms is something energy companies must catch on to, Cohn says.

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“For example, Hive is the home internet of a set of offers. But primarily it’s a platform that connects people.”

As that relationship grows, Cohn says he sees companies expanding beyond the platforms they offer, such as energy-related services.

“A growing segment of the market is around peace of mind, as customers ask “Is my home safe? Can I tell if someone has come in or not? Is my daughter at home?” or being able to see through the camera,” he added.

This changing nature of the relationship between energy companies and their customers is one where, thanks to digital technology, the balance of power is tipping strongly towards the customer.

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Smart meters, IoT devices and smartphones enable homes and businesses to understand their energy consumption with increasing levels of accuracy.

Nicola McCheen, head of the Innovation Ideas Lab, says this new level of insight is helping to keep customers in control.

“Some of the technologies we’re seeing in the energy sector that really impact customers’ lives are those that provide insight into what’s going on, such as new metering technologies that allow you to understand what’s going on in your home,” says McCheyne.

“It will give consumers much greater control and enable them to really engage in energy in a way that they haven’t in the past.”

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However, greater insight through digital technology is only the beginning of a shift of power away from energy companies and customers.

Currently piloting a project in the southwest of England that will allow local residents and businesses to buy and sell energy without intervention from their energy supplier.

A £19 million local energy market in Cornwall is enabling 200 homes and businesses to do this using a digital record known as blockchain. It is used to create a secure electronic ledger of transactions between participants.

McCheyne said blockchain is important for providing trust between users in a local peer-to-peer energy system in the absence of a central energy company or grid operator controlling everything.

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“And that means we can create these new networks at the edge of the energy system that enable that trade.”

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