The British CEO of German utility E.ON Climate and Renewables, says the EU and UK should work together to ensure Europe’s COP21 carbon reduction target is achieved, in spite of how the Brexit process unfolds.

Michael Lewis also told an energy conference in Paris that advanced utility-scale storage could become a reality ‘sooner than people think.’

The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in June of this year and the ramifications of that decision have caused a lot of confusion on both sides, a particularly unwelcome development to the energy sector, according to Lewis.
Michael Lewis of E.ON (centre) at NYT Energy for the Future conference
“The fundamental problem is the uncertainty it causes and we simply don’t know what the future relationship will be. We don’t know what the respective policies will be in relation to energy between the EU and UK so a cloud of uncertainty has descended and uncertainty in our bad business is a bad thing full stop.”

Mr Lewis said the present scenario obscured the ideal landscape for investment, one where clarity, consistency and long term perspective were in place, in terms of policy. However despite this he feels there will be enough appreciation on both sides of the need to facilitate achievement of Europe’s carbon reduction target.

“I think that it’s critically important when talking about policy frameworks where you have contiguous geographical entities and where there is flow of energy between the two that you have consistent policy. So it’s important that the UK continues to contribute to overall European energy policy.”

“The renewable energy resources there is in the UK that are extensive, are offshore and onshore wind and part of the overall European solution to reaching the COP21 target. It’s critical important that whatever comes out of it that we don’t see any kind of cleavage between UK policy and European policy.”

In a panel discussion at the New York Times Energy for Tomorrow conference in Paris Lewis explained the reorganisation of his company in terms of what is at play generally in the power sector.

“The dream of 100 per cent renewables will be achievable at some point. We are not there yet, it’s very clear we can’t run the system on renewables. That’s why when we split E.ON into two companies one dealing with system security, Uniper, within centralised generation, which is very much about tackling that market and keeping the systems stable. Another company then E.ON is dealing with customers, new world and renewables those two will exist together for some time until there is a storage solution which can not only solve short terms frequency response issues, but long term seasonal issues as well.“

It’s coming but it’s a transition. Whether that transition takes 5, 20 or 20 years we don’t know – it depends how quickly storage technology develops but it’s happening very quickly and if the past is anything to go by the speed at which wind and solar adapted and became cheap, if that’s any guide it’ll have happen much quicker than people think.”

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