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Talking about responsive and active energy systems with Jeremy Yapp, Policy and Regulation Director at ev.energy.

Jeremy Yapp interviewed by Natalia Vasnier as part of “Meet the changemakers” interview series.

Electric vehicles with ev.energy

Background and career


Could you tell us about your career background and what led to you developing an interest in energy issues and climate change?  


I didn’t start out in the energy sector; I wanted to work in aid and development. I put myself through university by working in a bookshop, and once I graduated I was offered the job as its manager. I later decided to change careers and worked for the Australian Parliament for two years. This was a very formative experience, and it allowed me to immerse myself in the dynamics of Australian politics. I moved to the UK in 2007, a difficult time to be job hunting, and took a junior position in the UK civil service. So, there I was in my mid-30s, beginning my career again, and I think that is a very common migrant story. It is difficult to move countries mid-career and it was one of the most challenging parts of my career journey. I was working on ozone-depleting substances, which gave me a taste for international regulation. I later joined the smart metering programme in the Department of Energy and Climate Change then worked as a lobbyist for a trade association for ten years. Six months ago, I came to work for one of my old clients, ev.energy, where I helped the company understand and influence policy and regulation in the UK and EU relating to the electrification of road transport, smart energy management, and grid flexibility.



The changing meaning of the climate crisis across generations


My generation did not learn about the climate crisis as children. Now, in the news and current affairs, climate is everywhere, but my understanding of the climate crisis came later, through the 1992 Rio conference in my first year at university. I was learning about climate change, thinking of it as a second-order problem that would exacerbate the real crises, which were food scarcity, pollution, and biodiversity loss. It only became clear to me in my 20s that climate is the moral, strategic, technical, social and environmental problem of our time and that as a result it requires system thinking in a way that a lot of other problems do not. The challenge seems so huge, but I think this also means that everyone can be part of the solutions.



A look into ev.energy and flexibility of the grid 


Could you tell us what is ev.energy and the services it provides? 


At ev.energy, we make an app that helps you to manage the charging of your electric vehicle. We take the stress away from the management of your charging and optimise it for your preferences. Overall, we are looking for a cheaper charge for you and a more convenient way for you to refuel your vehicle. We prioritise carbon savings and efficiencies, delivering a cleaner, greener, cheaper charge of your EV. Customer service is so important, and we want to create a more pleasant experience for our users. 


Electric vehicles with ev.energy

We also provide grid and data services. By allowing us to manage the charge, our users are using electricity in a flexible way that is responsive to grid requirements. That's a service that we then sell back to the grid. A more flexible, responsive grid is able to cope with more variation in demand and supply. This is essential if we are to replace fossil fuels with renewable power generation.


As a company, we are opposed to mindless, careless use of energy. We focus on EVs, but there are integrations with other assets: batteries, solar PV and so on. As a company, we want to grow EV charging as a source of grid flexibility. This reduces the peak generation demand that you have to build for, which will save network operators (and consumers) money and support the electrification and decarbonisation of the power system. It’s worth remembering also that the air quality benefits of the electrification of road transport are immense. We are saving lives with every petrol or diesel vehicle we take off the road. 


What are ev.energy’s future goals? 


We want smart charging to become ubiquitous. More EV drivers with smart charging means more clean power generation, more savings for networks and consumers, and a more liveable planet.


We are also focused in the near future on bidirectional charging, which will allow you to charge your EV and then, if you don't need that charge but if the price is right, discharge the battery back into the grid. This has the potential to be an absolute game changer for a more active and responsive power system, and for the financial benefits for our consumers.


How does flexibility support decarbonisation? 


We are looking towards a world beyond baseload. There will be nuclear in the mix of lots of national and international electricity systems, but overall, we are enabling the replacement of old fossil fuel generation with renewable generation, which is intermittent and depends on natural conditions. Similarly, we are looking at high variability in the demand, seasonal variability and diurnal variability. The way you meet that challenge is to make the grid more flexible. 

The cheapest form of new power generation is renewable. Affordable, low-carbon energy security will not come from new nuclear baseload or fossil fuel generation with CCUS, but from wind and solar generated for an interconnected, flexible grid. 

The increasing electrification of transport has led to fears of the increasing price of electricity. What do you have to say in response to that? 


Forecasts from the US Department of Energy and the International Energy Agency suggest global prices of electricity will remain roughly stable until 2050, despite increasing demand. This is partly because it has now become clear that the cheapest form of new power generation is renewable. Affordable, low-carbon energy security will not come from new nuclear baseload or fossil fuel generation with CCUS, but from wind and solar generated for an interconnected, flexible grid. 


A decade ago, we described an “energy trilemma” consisting of three essentially competing requirements that, we believed, required a series of trade-offs. These are energy security, meeting carbon reduction targets, and affordability. Until recently, these three things were pulling in different directions. If energy security is paramount, and we are not going to become a country of blackouts, how do we make the transition to a decarbonised power system affordable, while keeping the lights on? 


We talk much less about the trilemma now, because the solution is flexibility. The most secure design of the power system is low carbon, affordable renewables-based generation. The lowest-carbon power system is primarily renewables, which are also the cheapest and most secure.  


The really exciting thing is that the markets have spoken, and they tend to work in favour of decarbonisation. Now it is up to policymakers, governments, industry and people to engage with that.

Challenges and climate change


What types of changes have occurred in the past 10 years and what type of change do we need to see happen in the future? 


In the last 10 years there has been a growing acceptance of the science. The markets now work in favour of decarbonisation and that is very exciting. However, there is still much work to be done to help those markets work properly. 


There are many different opinions and many people working towards a shared future, but we need to accept that we can no longer afford fossil-fired plants.


This change will require a level of collaboration and cooperation that we are not seeing yet. 

It is rare now to hear people actively denying climate change. Now our problem is with delay. Of course we should embrace technological solutions – wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles are all technology solutions, after all – but I worry about proposals that overlook people and seem designed to perpetuate ‘business as usual’ rather than to deliver a new and better system. I am excited about what ev.energy is doing to provide compelling reasons for people to engage in this market. 


Where does electricity come from? 


The energy mix is complex, but renewables are growing as a proportion in that mix. 

I do not think electricity will become a luxury. But petrol will!


I am confident that people will produce more and more of their own electricity. Microgeneration with solar panels will become a near ubiquitous form of electricity supply. I think we will see most countries requiring solar panels on appropriate buildings. Wind farms will no longer be thought of as ugly; they will be a reminder of what we did to avert catastrophe. I think they are beautiful, the way they dance along the skyline. 


Does the final agreement of COP28 to ‘transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems’ have any impact on the industry you work in? 


This was an important and long-overdue statement, but I am not sure that it will have a large, immediate impact on the EV sector. Though I hope that it focuses minds on preparing electricity power systems for a world without fossil-fired generation, which will mean more smart technology and more smart charging. 


However, there were a number of other statements from COP28 that hopefully point the way to a more rapid road transport electrification. 


This is the first time that a COP has really described the solution rather than describing the problem. This was powerful language: the President of the COP, the CEO of a state fossil fuel company, called outright for the transition away from fossil fuels. 


Of course, it is not enough for COP to propose such a solution. We need to be clear about how to achieve it, and the next COP will have to achieve this. We need to stop being afraid of stating the path. I would like COP29 to be the electrification COP, where countries say that electricity is the main way out of our current situation. Electricity is the easiest thing to decarbonise, and renewable energy is the cheapest most sustainable way to meet electricity needs. 


 I believe in ingenuity and compassion. I believe that people, companies, countries, sectors can work together to solve these problems. I believe that we will avert the worst. I have a lot of faith in people and even more hope in them. 

Concluding questions


Are you an optimist or a pessimist when it comes to climate change? 


I am an optimist. There is a lot of exciting work being done. The market needs to be supported and allowed to work. I believe in ingenuity and compassion. I believe that people, companies, countries, sectors can work together to solve these problems. I believe that we will avert the worst. I have a lot of faith in people and even more hope in them. It is an incredibly exciting time to be involved in this system-level challenge. 


What advice would you have for young people who want to enter the electrical power industry? 


Electric vehicles with ev.energy

My advice to anyone starting out, if they are a practical person with strong technical abilities and they want to be part of the solution, with a good career and a good salary, I encourage them to consider becoming an electrician. That is a job that will always be in demand. In the UK there is a massive skills deficit and there has been insufficient planning. We do not have the skilled workforce we need to deliver a zero carbon 2050. 



I do recommend the energy industry to everyone. We don’t only need people with technical skills – which is just as well for me. We need people who can think across disciplines, problem-solve, work collaboratively, and think big. We need people who remember that every technology is used by a person, and every person uses and needs technology. In the decade or more that I’ve worked in this sector I’ve seen some people work extremely hard to make it more welcoming to young people. The gender balance is improving, but too slowly. We are still nowhere near where we should be.


I would encourage any young person to get interested in this and use their skills to make a change. There is no bigger prize than a liveable planet. The stakes are as high as they have ever been.


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Jeremy Yapp interviewed by Natalia Vasnier for The Conference Corner. Feature cover image provided by Jeremy Yapp.

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