The future of energy is already here - businesses must adapt to get ahead

Gab Barbaro

By Gab Barbaro
Managing Director, UK Business

Gab Barbaro blogs from today's Energy Live Future conference in London.

Today I spoke to around 200 large businesses at the Energy Live Future conference in London about the future of energy. My message to them was simple – adapt now to embrace new energy technology because the energy system of the future is here today.

Businesses have talked a lot to me about the barriers to change. They tell me that lengthy payback periods, funding difficulties, ageing properties, as well as political uncertainty are causing them to hold back.

But developments in energy technology and falling upfront investment costs have meant that energy is becoming more measurable, de-centralised, interconnected and intelligent than it has ever been before.

Progressive businesses are realising they can benefit from adopting an innovative energy strategy. They’ve found they can reduce their energy costs, create new revenue streams and increase their productivity.  What was once just seen as a cost is now a source of competitive advantage.

To prove this, we commissioned independent research last year. It showed that if distributed energy and flexibility services were adopted by just 50% of businesses in the industrial, health and hospitality/leisure sectors, they could save £1bn on their annual energy spend.  Not only that, but it proved it could boost the country’s economic growth overall by £18.5bn. 

Further research with 1000 businesses in six countries found firms with an advanced energy strategy were twice as likely to be ahead in their market and more competitive compared to their peers.

We’re changing our own business model to meet these changing needs and have invested £700m in our Distributed Energy & Power business to help businesses take the leap.

Delivered through Centrica Business solutions, we have examples from around the world of businesses who are saving energy, saving money, and creating financial advantage from their energy infrastructure today.

But a fundamental question still exists – what ultimately will the energy system of the future look like? Asking this question generates many questions of its own, so to get to the answers we’re doing two things.

First, we’re taking concepts out of the theoretical and putting them into practice by trialling new energy market models. Our £19m Cornwall Local Energy Market trial will help us to understand how a local energy market supported by a blockchain peer-to-peer trading mechanism could provide additional revenue streams to business owners.

Second, we need the regulator to review several licence conditions which govern our market today but weren’t written to manage the decentralised and digitised system we imagine in the future.  We’re talking with regulators and policy makers about what we believe needs to change to help us adapt our energy system for the 21st century.


We must get this right because change is happening today. It’s being driven by decentralisation, power shifting to the consumer and technological change.

I want businesses to know today that their peers are acting. Their decisions will help shape the energy system they need to help their business succeed. We believe that if more businesses joined them it would have a hugely positive impact on business costs and on the economy of our country.

It’s an exciting time to get involved. Businesses should get in touch to make the leap today.