Our third panel of the day focused on the Energy Industry Germana Canzi (a freelance journalist specializing in sustainable energy) and Gearoid Lane (founder of AgilityEco) discussed working in the energy sector and the direction the industry was being taken in. Please see our other blog posts for profiles on these two speakers.
The future of the energy industry:
Both our speakers made it clear that the future of this industry is relatively unknown. There are still so many developments needed to make energy more sustainable especially in the storage of energy. The challenges in the future lie in storing energy from renewable sources in order to deal with fluctuating demands for energy throughout the day. Current trends seen as a move towards the digitalization of the industry, evidence in the emergence of smart meters which allows consumers to use less energy and therefore save money.
The motives of the energy industry
The speaker’s alluded to the issue of conflicting interest when thinking of motives within the energy industry. There are 3 agendas that are usually followed: The Security of Supply Agenda, the Fuel Poverty Agenda and the Sustainability Agenda. Being past the point of being able to produce as much energy as necessary, the industry is focusing on the other two agendas. Focusing on either agenda will drag the industry in very different directions: it is very difficult to satisfy the need for sustainable energy sources that is affordable for all members of society. The future of the energy sector lies in the ability to find a source that satisfies all three agendas.
Government’s role in the energy industry
Our speakers suggested that whilst there are efforts by the government to promote sustainability and the use of more renewable energy, there is much more work to be done. Whilst there is progress (such as the recent bill preventing landlords from renting out an F or G rated property) compared to countries such as Germany, there is still room for improvement in this area. Lane suggested that the government is very good at providing subsides for renewable energy but they are taken away too early. Improvements need to be made in providing more incentives for businesses to develop and use renewable energy sources. Legislative pressures can only go so far, however. Many people may cut down on the energy they use in their homes but then choose to go on more holidays abroad with the money they have saved and therefore there has been no real environmental benefit. Attempts to persuade such as the use of TV adverts have been successful in the past but have stopped being as common. This must change and environmental protection must be placed higher on the agenda for significant contributions to be made. The speakers also suggested that the election of Trump and the UK decision to leave the European Union may also have an impact on the development of this industry as many of our greenest initiatives have come from Europe. In developing countries, NGOs can be a useful way to hold companies that may be unsustainable to account. In these countries it is also vital that there are people on the ground and not just sending money for projects from London or New York.
What types of skills are necessary/useful for work in the energy industry?
Both our speakers emphasised the random nature of their career progression and therefore asserted the need to be optimistic and flexible when considering a career in this industry. Business skills are vital when working in the energy sector and therefore Canzi stressed the importance of working in mainstream jobs first to gain a sense of how businesses work as well as being able to be less idealistic about renewable energy. Lane also suggested that working in a smaller company can be a good way to experience how businesses in this sector work before entering larger corporations. From working in a small business you can see how all the different roles function and often with a lot less bureaucracy. The energy sector may also be a daunting sector for an LSE graduate due to the amount of technical knowledge needed that is not taught on our degree programs. As a journalist originally, Canzi suggested this was not a problem. As long as you have a grounding in the ‘real world’, there is a need for people from all different backgrounds in the energy sector and by getting someone to explain things, the technical knowledge can be built up quickly.