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The Energy Trilemma

What is the Energy Trilemma?

The Energy Trilemma is defined as the need to find balance between energy reliability, affordability, and sustainability and its impact on everyday lives. Understanding, and solving the challenges faced by businesses, organisations and individuals in balancing these 3 core elements is vital to achieving goals such as Net Zero.

As businesses and organisations contend with a varying range of challenges when it comes to managing their energy use, more are taking note of what is often referred to as the ‘energy trilemma’ and looking at ways they can solve their own trilemma.

Originally devised by the World Energy Council as an indexing tool to assess the energy performance of individual countries, it also succinctly described the challenges faced by individual businesses and organisations in the face of a volatile, complex and rapidly changing energy market.

Why is the Energy Trilemma Important?

The energy trilemma is important because it helps to highlight 3 distinct areas of the energy sector. This helps Energy companies keep focus on all of these 3 dimensions rather than focus on one singular aspect. Ultra-reliable energy is of no use if it’s unaffordable for businesses and consumers. Likewise cheap energy is no good for businesses if it doesn’t work 50% of the time or generating it destroys the planet as a consequence.

Download & Read our free Energy Trilemma White Paper:
“Tackling the Energy Crisis with Intelligent Infrastructure – How businesses can navigate the Energy Trilemma”

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What is The Energy Trilemma Index

The World Energy Trilemma Index ranks 127 countries on their ability to balance three differing, but equally important, elements of their energy infrastructure. The first is Energy Security, a country’s ability to ensure that both current and future energy demand is reliably met, and that they are able to rapidly recover from system disruption. Energy Equity is a country’s ability to provide access to affordable energy for both domestic and commercial use. Finally, Environmental Sustainability is a measure of how a country’s energy systems are able to mitigate environmental impact.

The primary challenge of the Energy Trilemma is how to best improve each aspect of it without compromising on another. On a global scale, an example of this could be a country investing heavily in oil to improve energy equity, but resulting in a significant downturn in their environmental sustainability.

The same challenge, on a smaller scale, is presented to every business and organisation in the UK. As we continue to face an ongoing energy price crisis, solutions are required that are either don’t compromise, or ideally actually improve, the other two aspects of the energy trilemma.

Energy Affordability

Cost-effective energy procurement will be front of mind for any organisation currently, as the UK continues to face a cost of living and doing business crisis. Soaring natural gas prices, with the UK still reliant on gas generation to provide baseload power during periods of peak demand, has seen historic increases in energy costs. British businesses now pay significantly more for their gas and electricity than their competitors in mainland Europe.

While historically better procurement was seen as the primary way to reduce energy costs, the margin for significant savings simply by changing tariff or supplier is vanishing. Instead, it falls to businesses to make changes in how they operate and use energy, cutting costs by either simply using less or by using the energy they do pay for more intelligently.

More about energy affordability and efficiency

Energy Sustainability

The UK’s ambitious net zero targets aren’t going anywhere, and progressing towards them is an increasingly vital part of maintaining relations with consumers, partners and investors. Fortunately, many of the options available to businesses can also help to reduce energy costs, such as through improved energy efficiency or through the installation of on-site generation.

While there are long-term plans in place to shift the UK’s generation mix away from fossil fuels completely, in the short-term gas generation will continue to play a significant role, potentially an increased one as the Energy Security Strategy sees the UK increase fossil fuel activity in the North Sea and mull over the idea of lifting the moratorium on fracking. To effectively decarbonise their Scope 2 emissions, businesses need to take matters into their own hands.

More about energy sustainability and Net-Zero

Reliable energy

Energy Reliability and Resilience

As previously stated, energy security and reliability is where the UK ranks the lowest on the Trilemma Index. National Grid reported a margin of just 6.6% on total capacity last winter, substantially lower than during the same period a year before. In the case of a major outage at a large generator, winter blackouts in the UK are still a real possibility.

Bolstering the energy resilience of your business sites can be one of the more challenging aspects of the trilemma to address without compromising the other two. Diesel generators or combined heat and power (CHP) generation can supply your site with backup power in the event of a grid outage, but can be expensive and significantly increase your carbon footprint. an Uninterruptible Power Supply will protect your site in the case of a brief disruption, but again the nature of the technology means that it can undermine your sustainability and overall energy costs.

More about energy reliability and resilience

Solving The Energy Trilemma Through Innovation

Innovation is key to solving the Energy Trilemma. Using innovative techologies can help make your businesses energy more affordible, sustainable and resilient

Powerstar’s range of technologies are able to each bolster all three aspects of the trilemma. Voltage optimisation works to reduce and condition incoming voltage, reducing the cost and associated emissions of your electricity usage while protecting your site from spikes and dips in mains supply. Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) perform a similar role to other UPS technologies, but offer much better energy efficiency and are able to actively support other aspects of your energy strategy that can improve sustainability and reduce costs.

This ranges from storing renewable energy generated on-site for later use or allowing EVs to be charged more easily, to allowing electricity to be purchased and stored when prices are lower or engaging with grid contract services to generate new streams of income.

To find out more about how Powerstar can help your organisation find solutions to the ongoing Energy Trilemma, contact our team here.

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