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The inevitable move from centralized energy?

The market for large-scale power plants in Europe will never return and small municipal/local power producers will be responsible for the majority of power generation in Europe in 10 years’ time.

Those are the ” perhaps radical, perhaps realistic ” views of nearly half of those polled from an (admittedly small) audience at the POWER-GEN Europe exhibition and conference in Cologne, Germany two weeks ago. And these responses are not from lobbyists for decentralized energy, but from mainstream power generation industry professionals who felt the need to go Cologne to take a look at the power industry and its prospects.

This year's POWER-GEN Europe - surprsing polls
Asked what would have the greatest positive effect on kick-starting large-scale power project development, 20% of those polled went for ‘guaranteed value for capacity’ ” ie a capacity market for power plants; and 23% chose the certainty that would follow ‘a reliable long-term policy framework from Brussels’. But the largest proportion, 47%, felt that no measures will work, as that market will never return.

So what will take its place? Asked who would be responsible for the majority of power generation in Europe a decade from now, 37% pointed to the status quo, large centralized utilities; but the largest proportion, 48%, went for small municipal/local producers.

Conference attendees don’t make and carry out energy policy, of course. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to learn that the prevailing view from one group attending this huge annual power event is that smaller, decentralized generators are going to take the place of large utilities in Europe, and soon. Perhaps the decentralized energy agenda is further advanced within the wider energy industry than we thought.

Covering similar ground, but from a different angle, was another group of energy industry professionals gathered in Germany at the same time to attend a solar power event in Munich. The organisers noted that the scope of the event is expanding, from just photovoltaic panels to include whole decentralized energy systems. That is, PV panels and an energy storage device that combine to form a viable on-site power capability. Also, on-site energy consumption, rather than grid feed-in, is becoming more interesting for both householders and operators of commercial buildings, said Intersolar, together with new financing and business models such as rental or leasing contracts. One model of an alternative to centralized grid power, in other words.

Seems everyone is talking about the move away from the old centralized utility model and towards one which also includes a major on-site energy component, including solar PV and municipal/local power producers.