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Focus on the forthcoming BIEE Energy Policy Conference

Peter Taylor, University of Leeds and Chair of BIEE Policy Conference 2022

We most often see energy issues in the news in connection with the climate crisis. But recent months have seen it hit the headlines for other reasons. At the start of the year it was soaring international gas prices that were the main concern, as winter in Europe coincided with the economy rebounding after COVID restrictions were lifted. Then in February, these price concerns were joined by fears around the physical security of gas supplies, as Russia invaded Ukraine and many European countries scrambled to find alternative sources of supplies. And it isn’t just gas that has been affected, as we saw knock-on impacts on electricity prices since gas generation often sets the wholesale market price.

While many industries suffered the immediate impact of these price rises, the effects were also felt by domestic consumers when Ofgem raised the price cap in April and the bill for a typical dual fuel customer increased by 54%. While the summer months might be expected to provide some relief, as I write, wholesale gas and electricity prices are still way above those seen in recent years.  Attention is already turning to next winter, when demand will inevitably soar once more and there are already predictions that typically UK households may be paying over £3200 annually for their electricity and gas.

This year’s BIEE policy conference will be focusing on these issues by exploring if and how our energy markets can respond to the current crises and deliver a secure and affordable transition to a low carbon economy. We have an excellent line up of speakers to discuss the impacts and solutions at all levels from local to international. Our opening session outlines the breadth the problem with speakers providing perspectives from consumers, national government and the international dimension. We then move on to take a deep dive into the world of electricity to explore whether, 10 years after electricity market reform, it is still delivering what we need, what lessons can we learn and how might it need to change in the future. The afternoon starts with what promises to be a lively panel debate around how we manage risks and shocks.  We’ll hear from speakers with very different perspectives, including an energy market trader, industry association, trade union and an academic. We then end the formal part of the day with a look at how new markets are emerging with different scales, geographies and participants. Topics include markets for carbon, hydrogen, heat and locally based markets in which communities and consumers may be more important. We’ll hear what role the speakers think markets could and should play in these areas and what might be the risks and benefits.

Finally, a drinks reception will give the chance to talk informally to the speakers and to engage with a wide spectrum of conference attendees involved in the energy field from government, industry, NGOs and academia. We very much hope that you will be able to join us – and don’t forget that the early bird rate for conference registration ends on 31 July.

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