Gemma Dyson has been instrumental in building the team behind the successful bids for many of Vital’s innovative decarbonisation projects. As such, she has a keen interest in how the low-carbon energy sector is evolving, what challenges it faces and how we can best help our clients achieve substantial and rapid decarbonisation.
We sat down with Gemma to find out why there’s a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the UK’s journey to net zero…
Name: Gemma Dyson
Job Title: Proposals Manager
Department: Pre-Construction Team (also known as the “Work Winning Team!”)
What changes have you noticed since you joined Vital Energi?
Well I’ve been at Vital for more than 4 years now and every day is different – so it’s safe to say there have been lots of changes!! But the most obvious thing would be the size of the Pre-construction Team. It’s gone from five members to 20, and this reflects the growth of the industry and the ambition from all sectors to achieve net zero.
The technologies have noticeably changed. Most of our energy centre jobs used to be centred around CHP engines, but now they struggle to achieve the decarbonisation our clients need, we’re seeing more renewable led projects such as heat pumps and solar PV coming to market. There’s also been a big increase in energy efficiency projects through frameworks such as Non-Domestic Energy Efficiency (NDEE) and Re:fit.
What are your proudest moments in this Industry?
It would be easy to say winning a big bid, but they’re always team efforts, so I’d have to say that the growth (and strength) of the work winning team over the last 4 years is probably my biggest achievement. (It’s not just down to me, of course, but I like to think I’ve played my part!)
As a growing business, we’re always trying to do things differently, so we have recently added specialists to our team in specific areas such as solar PV, where we’ve gone from installing small rooftop installations to multi-megawatt solar farms in the space of a few years. It’s a never-ending process, so we must keep evolving to make sure we have the best expertise deliver what our clients need.
We’ve also just recruited our first Zero Carbon Apprentice to the work winning team, Harvey Hudson. Harvey is part of the first cohort of apprentices Vital Energi have employed and is 16 and has already wowed us with his passion and enthusiasm. With individuals like Harvey around, the future is bright! But we’ve got to keep promoting our sector and encouraging young people from diverse backgrounds into it.
There seems to be the appetite for decarbonisation from most areas of society, from the public to the Government. Is this being backed up by funding and legislation?
The UK Government has one of the most ambitious carbon reduction targets in the world. It has already provided some strong funding for the development and delivery of projects and there are more initiatives in the pipeline which should ensure these essential projects come to fruition.
Most of our energy centre jobs used to be centred around CHP engines, but now they struggle to achieve the decarbonisation our clients need, we’re seeing more renewable led projects such as heat pumps and solar PV coming to market. There’s also been a big increase in energy efficiency projects through frameworks such as Non-Domestic Energy Efficiency (NDEE) and Re:fit.
You came to Vital from a Social Housing background. Do you have a view of how this market is reacting to the need to decarbonise?
They are one of the sectors which will face the biggest challenge because they have their own zero carbon agendas, but they’re also constrained by price and affordability. Most importantly, they are driven by fuel poverty, which is only increasing, especially given the recent hike in wholesale gas prices. In short, we need to make sure that that the green heat supplied to social housing is affordable to residents.
Metering and billing is an area which shouldn’t be overlooked as it can make a big contribution to both decarbonisation and fuel poverty. Vital Energi have recently launched the Glass App and at its heart it brings transparency and control to residents. By giving residents access to smart controls, they can make more informed decisions on how they use their heat and spend their money more efficiently. Glass gives residents the opportunity to understand their own consumption and manage it effectively.
What do you think the next years will bring for the UK’s energy infrastructure?
I don’t think you need a crystal ball to predict more electric vehicles, which brings the need for more charging stations and more renewable generation of electricity through technologies such as solar PV. The grid just won’t cope without renewables! Renewable energy generation, improved energy efficiency and the electrification of heat are all key features for the future, and I would hope that battery storage, wind and hydrogen will become more affordable and more readily available in the future. Hydrogen is clearly an emerging fuel that is likely to support the decarbonisation of heat which is reinforced by the UK Governments recent launch of the UK Hydrogen Strategy.
The endgame is to maximise decarbonisation and create smarter supply and export of energy through smart grids and I am looking forward to playing my part!