Ian Brent-Smith, director of Bicester energy firm Powersun, talks about how energy generation has changed in the past decade and where it is heading next.

A DECADE ago, all power in the UK came from a few large centralised power stations. As of March this year, the UK now has one million power stations.

This incredibly fast and dramatic change has been brought about by the massive rise in renewable energy over the past 10 years.

But this rise has also brought with it some problems: when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, no power is generated.

Something has to fill the gap, particularly now that we’re moving towards using electric vehicles (EVs), which will hugely increase the demand on our National Grid.

Read also: New Green Lord Mayor of Oxford launches renewable energy fund

My company Powersun has been helping to provide systems to back up the grid when needed: when demand peaks or supply is at a low.

Gas-driven generators are being installed all round the country to provide quick start-up and support, alongside large-scale batteries, which can switch on almost instantaneously when a problem occurs.


The new Green Lord Mayor of Oxford Craig Simmons recently launched a renewable energy fund.

Often sited inside small farm-scale agricultural barns to ensure they minimise the effect on the landscape, these systems are quiet and pass largely unnoticed in town or country.

They are important, however, as without them, the lights could go off.

The changes happening to our electricity grid are the fastest and most far-reaching since electricity has been widely available.

Read also: The Oxford professor aiming to revolutionise the energy industry with crystal-powered solar cells

Working in harmony with the latest in IT and shortly 5G systems, the house of the future will be a far cry from even 10 years ago.

We have all heard about the Internet of Things (IoT), and this will be controlling the power to and from your house as well.

Your EV will charge from your solar panels; your batteries will ensure that you buy your power when it’s cheapest and store it for later use; if the grid needs more power, it’ll take it from your EV (and pay you!); if houses in the North need more power, and houses in the South have a surplus, one will supply the other, with an automatic inter-trade.


Westmill wind farm near Faringdon has been generating clean energy since 2008.

All of these systems will be interconnected, seamlessly controlled and monitored by artificial intelligence computing systems, and will reduce our energy costs while making the new Smart Grid a working proposition.

EV charging stations now outnumber petrol stations in the UK, but we still need many thousands more, all across the country, in business parks, shopping centres, motorway service stations and of course at home.

Read also: Didcot Power Station demolition plans revealed

The extra power needed could be huge, as one typical EV holds as much power as an average house uses every three days. Only five high-performance EVs charging at the maximum rate at the same time can use as much power as 125 houses.

Every house should be thinking about adding value by getting Smart House and EV ready.


In the same way that a fast internet connection is now essential, Smart Houses will sell more easily in the future.

Of course all these changes and the rapid advancement of both the Smart Grid and Smart Houses mean every house will need to have a Smart Meter, and the new ones (intelligent, rather than the dumb ones everyone dislikes so much) will continue to be rolled out.

It’s an exciting time for energy and particularly so for the million new generators in the UK.