All Energy Locogen Stand

Our Key Takeaways from All Energy

Last week, our team of experts took some well-needed time out of the office to attend All Energy. There was a great atmosphere and buzz at All Energy and it was noticeably busier than last year, which is a feat in itself. Fellow clients, contacts, and exhibitors at the event all commented on how active they were, especially those working on onshore renewables. The general sense from the conference was one of optimism about the future of renewable energy with the increase in demand, the hopeful governance changes and how current issues are being addressed by industry.

Our key takeaways in a nutshell:

  • Planning applications for renewable projects are set to peak in 2025-2026 and an increase in construction of consented projects is expected next year.
  • Ongoing improvements in planning and energy market access provides opportunities for renewables to grow more quickly.
  • Green hydrogen remains a hot topic, but there’s still a lot of noise. Some progress has been made but it’s small-scale and few and far between.
  • Grid congestion remains a key barrier, but progress is being made to alleviate these with improvements in queue management already being felt.
  • Future battery projects are being impacted by the decline in revenues, but opportunities exist for companies with deep-pockets or long-term strategies to get involved.
  • Forecasted barriers on resource bottlenecks are being discussed early to help prepare the industry as it continues to grow.

Planning for renewables growth

There was a lot of optimism amongst attendees that potential political changes (that could come from a change of UK Government) could result in positive outcomes, for example the very difficult planning situation for onshore wind in England changing. With this enthusiasm, preparations are being made so that if this does happen the sector is geared up and ready to act.

Alongside growing optimism for the future, planning applications are expected to peak in 2025 and 2026 at a National and local level. With an exciting number of both PV and wind projects coming through consent and looking to move to construction over the next couple of years. A positive sign of a growing industry, but there will need to be an improvement in scoping of sites to reduce the burden on planners and statutory consultees as this peaks.

Albeit behind schedule, the ongoing work on standardising environmental impact assessments and sharing of planning and environmental considerations between project owners, should also help to streamline planning. It is hoped that the improvements to Scottish planning for renewables are likely to be replicated in England, providing growth opportunities for both onshore wind and solar.

Hydrogen remains a hot topic, but there’s still a lot of hot air

Hydrogen continues to be a focus for many companies which was a notable takeaway from last year’s All Energy conference too. It has arguably increased further in popularity since last year, with almost everyone now mentioning hydrogen as something they are an expert in. Despite the increase in marketing and hype around hydrogen, there was evidence of some progress, including our very own green hydrogen powered distillery at Arbikie.

The use of hydrogen is wide reaching, with early-stage progress being talked about in heavy goods transportation, steel production, fertilisers, fuelling stations and many more applications and industries. In terms of renewables, green hydrogen was still a hot topic and co-located technologies continue to be talked about as a potential way of unlocking grid congestion.

Grid congestion remains a key barrier for renewable projects

Grid congestion is a well-known key barrier for renewables and was certainly a key topic of discussion throughout the conference. There was plenty of speculation on how it might be addressed with various solutions being offered. There seems to be a sense that things are starting to improve with the changes to queue management meaning that long connection times could reduce and open up capacity.

In addition to grid, battery energy storage projects are struggling given the recent and short-term declining revenues. Some companies indicated they will now hold off building, and others are trying to offload their projects with concerns around how and when the revenues will recover. This may benefit organisations with deep pockets and a long-term strategy or ability to diversify into renewables or other technologies.

Wider access to energy markets is on the cards

Local Energy System circles were over the moon with the introduction of the P442 modification to the Balancing and Settlement Code. This should, in theory, allow micro to small scale license exempt distributed energy resources to access the energy markets by supplying energy directly to consumers on a peer-to-peer basis. A key and fundamental change in enabling local energy system business models and end customers to access markets.

Increasing governance as the number of certifying bodies increases

There were a large number of certifying bodies and companies providing auditing and testing services in various capacities. This shows a demand for control and accreditation to backup claims in areas such sustainability, carbon footprint, environmental impact management and health and safety among others. Given the rapid growth of renewables, sustainability and emerging sectors like hydrogen, there is increasing demand for control and accreditation to backup claims and provide confidence in services being provided. It is likely that as the industry continues to grow and as clients look for more credibility that governance in this area will continue to increase.

Bottlenecks in developing future projects due to skills shortages

The growth in the industry comes with its own problems, mainly in terms of manpower for the number of projects building up. There was a lot of discussion about the declining numbers of graduates in the sector with the required skill level or specialisation to lead on projects and the gap that is left behind as experienced staff progress in their careers. The lack of resources is also beginning to show in the public sector as more professionals move into the private sector – a key pain point for consenting projects. Construction is another key sector where resource shortages are being felt and will be even more so next year as many projects move to construction.

The Government’s targets and growth of renewables is seeing a shift in the job market and required roles to deliver these. Training and qualifications tailored to this industry needs to increase quickly to ensure there is sufficient resource to fill these roles. There also needs to be a focus on upskilling individuals with applicable, transferable skills from the Oil and Gas industry to renewables.

With all the optimism and growth of All Energy 2024, we can’t wait to do it all again next year to see what updates there are to our findings this year and how much more renewables can grow.

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