Meet our members, Dan Byles, London CEG member and Sustainability Working Group member
When I was first approached about joining the Customer Engagement Group (CEG) for UK Power Networks, I hesitated. All too often, exercises like this can turn out to be frustrating for those who give their time. There are documents to read and meetings to attend, and at the end of the process you can feel like you have made little difference to the final outcome.
It quickly became apparent that this one was different. Our CEG chair, Ann Bishop and her team have put together an impressive group of experts who are deeply knowledgeable about the subject matter, and imaginative in their approach to dealing with UK Power Networks and the challenge at hand. And for their part, UK Power Networks have demonstrated that this a process they are taking seriously. The quality of the people and the information they are making available to us is impressive and when we challenge assumptions, I have the feeling that we are being listened to sincerely.
My own background is a little different to the others in the CEG. I am on my third career, having started life as a soldier. After nine years in the Army I accidentally fell into politics, becoming the Member of Parliament for North Warwickshire & Bedworth in 2010. It was during this period that my interest in the energy sector took off. I served for five years as a member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, and I Chaired the All Party Environment Group.
Since choosing the leave Parliament in 2015, I entered my third career in the technology sector. Working first in the Smart City and Internet of Things sector, and now Artificial Intelligence, energy and sustainability have been central to what I do. Additionally, in 2015 I took over as non-executive Chair of SmartGridGB and worked with techUK to transform it into SmarterUK.
Working with my colleagues on the CEG is incredibly worthwhile. We are holding UK Power Networks to account and helping to help ensure they genuinely consider the needs of customers and stakeholders for the 2023-2028 business plan period. Against the backdrop of Net Zero being signed into law, this is a critical time in the development of our energy infrastructure. If we don’t have sustainable energy network infrastructure moving forward, we cannot have a sustainable economy, and we cannot meet Net Zero.
We need more low carbon generation and distributed generation, we need demand side response and smart demand shifting, we need energy storage and local smart microgrids. We need genuine smart buildings that are not simply dumb users of energy, but which generate power, store power, intelligently manage internal demand and talk to the buildings next door to coordinate energy use; buildings that arbitrage rooftop generation and battery storage and predicted use against half hourly (or even, God forbid, real-time) pricing signals.
But none of this can be treated as an academic exercise rooted in theory. An Ofgem funded game of SimCity. Because at the end of the wires are real people. People with businesses to run and homes to power. Sometimes vulnerable people who regularly face the choice between heat and light and food. We need to ensure that companies like UK Power Networks are laying the groundwork for the sustainable infrastructure we need to ensure our children still have a planet that lives and oceans to swim in and clean air to breath… while at the same time protecting the interests and needs of every customer. That’s a tough job. And I’m proud to be doing my part to help.