THE global energy crisis is having a significant impact, driving broader economic factors including inflation. The peak of this crisis is still to come, with people across the UK facing potentially ruinous winter fuel costs.

To complicate matters further, the recent extreme weather events across the UK and Europe will likely increase in frequency and severity without urgent decarbonisation of our power generation.

We are only in the early stages of a protracted economic and environmental disaster which will incur ever-increasing societal and economic cost unless radical reform is embraced.

Despite that, the oil and gas industry are nonetheless reporting record-breaking quarter year profits, some into the tens of billions.

However, there is currently little incentive for the energy market to spend their profits on improving social inclusion, embracing decarbonisation, or building up services’ resilience to geopolitical factors.

In responding to the Covid crisis, we prioritised research and innovation to meet an urgent need. We face a similar urgent need in the energy sector today, but the market and its regulation is still based on the short-term and highly constrained techno-economic drivers that caused this crisis in the first place.

There is compelling evidence that decentralising our energy system and improving accessibility to both the energy system and markets for individuals and communities could offer a timely solution.

A recent Innovate UK report highlighted that energy solutions better-tailored to local needs could provide a tenfold return on investment over more generalised local services.

My research group at the University of Glasgow have been doing our part to explore new social-techno-economic models which harness today's technologies and infrastructure to create sustainable, reliable and inclusive energy services which work for everyone.

We have proven how we can use new Local Energy Market (LEMs) to support wealth distribution on community owned assets, sharing profits among local people and organisations. LEMs improve equity and inclusion, and support local network reliability by offsetting reinforcement costs. They improve decarbonisation through enhanced lifecycle analysis of storage technologies, such as batteries. They encourage local green energy generation to support growing demand for decarbonised transport such as electric vehicles.

The research evidence is there – we could turn around this crisis today, with the technologies and infrastructure we already have, if only we began to make bolder interventions now.

There is rising public support for nationalising our diverse energy services and technologies. Do we need to move to such radical and disruptive reform? Or can we create, implement and deliver the regulation and market incentives required to unlock affordable, secure and sustainable services to citizens that build on today’s technologies and unlock the potential of our recent discoveries?

Either way, our current situation cannot be maintained. Our energy services are vital to the climate response and have become “weaponised” by international actors to exert pressure and influence.

Access to energy is a right. The energy transition needs to happen with, as opposed to, citizens. We must encourage Ofgem and energy stakeholders to consider redefining how we reward energy services, and put the environment and customers first.

David Flynn is Professor of Cyber Physical Systems at the University of Glasgow’s James Watt School of Engineering.