Meet our members – Nigel Cornwall, Core Group member, Eastern CEG Lead, Sustainability Working Group member and Resilience & Reliability Working Group Co-Lead

After a long career in the energy sector, I continue to push to make the sector more competitive, more customer-focused and more innovative. Joining the Customer Engagement Group (CEG) for UK Power Networks is an excellent opportunity in this respect given the emphasis of putting the consumer and change at the heart of the sector especially at a time when we can have a formative role in enabling progress towards a net zero world.

For years I have supported market and regulatory reform, first as a civil servant working on the restructuring of the energy sector under the Thatcher government, then working as a consultant on change programmes in other reforming markets around the globe from Australia to Zambia. I have set up price controls in Victoria and helped develop the market rules in New Zealand. I worked on separation of transmission in the Philippines, opened up transparency of the dominant utility in Malaysia, and set up the regulator in South Africa. Regardless of the different regulatory and geographical contexts, these experiences emphasised time and again the need for a strong customer voice and active participation of the demand-side in the design and operation of markets and active engagement of diverse stakeholders in regulatory processes.

About 20 years ago, I traded in air-miles for a monthly railcard to London, and I developed my own energy research and consultancy business back here in the UK, which is now Cornwall Insight. From a team of one FTE, a part time secretary and some pets, the company grew to over 70 employees (no pets) with offices in Norwich, London, Dublin and Melbourne. I spent much of my time at Cornwall writing about making markets more open for new types of participation, including on the demand side, and I also promoted collective engagement models for use in regulated company price review processes.

On the CEG, I am looking forward to putting theory into practice during the process of challenging UK Power Networks on how it has considered the needs and priorities of customers and local stakeholders in the development of its plans for the RIIO-ED2 price control. And as Deputy Chair of the Eastern CEG and based in Norwich, I have a particular interest in how UK Power Networks has considered the needs of its 3.6 million customers across East Anglia and North London – myself included!

Outside of the CEG, I am working just now to support community energy and local markets through New Anglia Energy. There is a clear and growing appetite for community participation and democratisation of energy markets, but there remain big challenges in respect of centralised governance dominated by established, national players. Both I and the other Eastern CEG members will be looking at how UK Power Networks has responded to these types of opportunities and challenges in its business plan for the region and how they deliver the best outcomes for customers.

These are not easy questions to answer of course, but I’ve been very impressed so far by the level of commitment and insight brought by my CEG colleagues and the support and cooperation of UK Power Networks.