Meet our members – Ralitsa Hiteva, South Eastern CEG member and Sustainability Working Group member

I live in a beautiful, small coastal town in the South Eastern Power Networks licence area of UK Power Networks. Very much like the rest of the UK Power Networks’ regions, the South Eastern region is underpinned by inequalities: there are vast differences in quality of life, life expectancy and opportunities, between some of the most affluent areas like Brighton and areas like Hastings and Ore, reflected in variations of levels of fuel poverty, wellbeing and ability to take part and benefit from societal changes, such as the transition towards Net Zero.

The 2.3 million customers spanning South London, Kent, East Sussex and parts of Surrey and West Sussex are far from being all the same and the built environment of the region paints a complex picture. Places like Bexhill and Eastbourne are among the locations with the highest concentrations of elderly people in the UK. Over 55s are some of the most vulnerable groups of energy users: they tend to have higher energy needs and less flexibility in when and how much energy they use. Those living in purpose-built accommodation, like shelter schemes, have limited to no control over the energy tariffs that they use or the energy efficiency of their housing or their appliances, which begs the question: how are their futures and interests going to be represented in the energy transition, in the next 5 years and beyond, right here in the South Eastern region?

What attracted to me to join the Customer Engagement Group (CEG) for UK Power Networks was the opportunity to keep asking: What about those who can’t install solar panels or a ground source heat pumps in their property? What about those who can neither meet their energy needs nor afford to pay for the energy that they are using? How are they going to benefit from the changes in the UK energy system?

As someone who has worked on energy transitions for the past 12 years, I clearly see the need for leadership, cooperation and ambition.

  • Leadership, because although as a Distribution Network Operator (DNO) UK Power Networks is somewhat invisible to energy consumers, bar any power cuts, it has a key role to play in facilitating energy savings, greater energy efficiency in use and in the built environment; greater environmental protection and lower carbon emission for the whole of the region.
  • Cooperation, since the transition to Net Zero is a transition for the whole of society and not just about the environmental impact of a single group of consumers or one company.
  • Ambition, because achieving Net Zero is the most ambitious target for decarbonisation that the UK has ever had and will require radical rethinking of not only how much we can do but also reimagining what else we can do. I believe that ambition is not only necessary because of the role that UK Power Networks plays in the energy system in the UK but also because of the ambition of its customers.

For the past 6 years I have worked on innovations in business models for the delivery of energy services in the UK and see that people are engaging more and more with how much energy they are using; where it is coming from and how they can be self-sufficient in meeting their energy needs. I hope that through the CEG’s challenge process I will be able to support UK Power Networks in realising the leadership role that it can play in cooperation with others in the region to meet the ambitions of its customers, while meeting the needs of those most vulnerable.