With another party conference season at an end, UK Power Reserve’s Director of Policy and Regulation Michael Jenner reflects on his experience

Energy was top of the agenda at the party conferences this year, as politicians of all stripes grappled withhow to secure a flexible, low carbon and affordable future energy system.

“Each conference had a different focus when it came to energy, but there were a lot of points in common,” Michael says. “Moving towards an ultra-low carbon economy. Increasinglydecentralised, local energy systems. Tackling the challenges of social inequality and fuel poverty to ensure that everyone benefits from the emerging flexible energy system – not just those who have the money to buy solar panels and electric vehicles.”

This year, UK Power Reserve hosted panel debates at the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat conferences with PRASEG, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Renewable and Sustainable Energy. Michael was on the panel for all three, providing the industry voice alongside energy minister Richard Harrington, shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead, policy experts and representatives from the media and business.

Discussion centred around investment into clean, decentralised energy systems and the industry’s role in powering regional economies. It also explained the impact of a growing share of renewables in the UK’s energy mix.

“People are starting to understand that it’s about providing flexibility services, not just generation,” Michael says. “And rapid response flexibility services, like those provided by UK Power Reserve, underpin the intermittency of renewables. So the grid remains balanced when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine, without compromising our commitment to low carbon power.”

Conference delegates were keen to listen and contribute to the debates, and all three were well attended.

“It was standing room only at the Liberal Democrats and Baroness Featherstone arrived a little late,” Michael recalls. “She declined the seat someone offered to her and sat down on the floor instead, looking up at us all on the panel.”

When not answering questions, he had time to make new connections, soak up the conference atmosphere and even indulge in some celebrity spotting.

“At one point, Bear Grylls appeared on the main stage to talk about Scouts. This wasn’t on the official agenda but immediately conference delegates flooded in to fill the room and everyone had their phones out,” Michael says. “Some things are just more exciting than politics.”