Richard Green

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Working at Imperial College Business School since 2011, Professor Richard Green is well known for his work and research as Alan and Sabine Howard Professor of Sustainable Energy Business. However, what most don’t know are that his talents extend outside the realm of Management and Renewable Energy. Richard recently talked to us about his current research and his career as Baritone (or first Bass) in the BBC Symphony Chorus, including his participation in the upcoming BBC Prom series and a Grammy-nominated album.

Richard’s research has seen him write extensively on Market Power in wholesale markets and transmission pricing. Most recently his focus has turned the impact of low-carbon generation (nuclear and renewables) on the electricity market and the business and policy implications of this.

His current “flagship” project is part of the UK Energy Research Centre, a network headquartered at Imperial College.  He will be modelling the interactions of the UK with the rest of the European energy system, working with Dr Iain Staffell (who is about to take up a College Junior Research Fellowship).  It is likely that building more (undersea) transmission lines to the rest of Europe will help to deal with fluctuations in the output of wind and solar generators, but the economic effects of this need to be carefully studied.

With the increased conversations regarding our environment and the effects of energy production, we asked Professor Green what his thoughts are on the best source for our community. ‘Ideally a mix’ he answered, explaining that whilst traditional coal burning methods provide a flexible mode of electrical supply, ‘our environment can’t safely absorb too much more carbon’.  As governments and communities continue to develop alternative energy sources, the team’s research into wind farm longevity is already being used in the UK government’s calculations.  The work used 500 million wind speed estimates from across the UK to simulate the output that each wind farm should produce, and compared this with their actual outputs.  This suggested that wind farm effectiveness degrades over time at about the same rate as other kinds of power stations, in contrast to previous claims.

‘Nuclear supplies a steady base load supply,’ Prof. Green explained, continuing his insightful overview of energy sources. This is a highly contentious source of power and Green and Staffell were recently involved with the European Commission’s investigation of the Government’s planned subsidy and potential effects on the market and what the potential benefits would be for consumers.  Professor Green noted that some of their research was taken on board, with the European Commission negotiating a better deal (in terms of clawing back any cost savings for future consumers) than the UK government had been able to achieve.

Moving on from energy supply and effectiveness we touched on storage, and yet another project Prof. Green is currently working on.  In the search for alternative power supply energy, storage has become a hot topic with Prof. Green’s investigation looking at the possibility of capturing energy generated at times when there is a surplus.  The ability to store energy and use it later at times of high demand has many obvious benefits, but raises a number of questions such as ‘Is it better to keep the energy in reserve in case we need it even more later or is it better to take advantage of the current market price and sell?’. The questions and possibilities are something that Professor Green hopes to expand on and share through his research.

Our conversation quickly moved from wind turbines to wind instruments as we turned to the BBC Symphony Chorus. After moving from Birmingham and leaving his post in the CBSO Chorus, Professor Green sought out a position with the BBC Symphony Chorus via a friend’s referral. A further reading into auditioning for the Chorus will tell you that it is no easy feat – an audition usually lasts 15 minutes, with participants asked to prepare a solo piece reflective of current Chorus compositions as well as sight reading and scales. Professor Green’s vocal skills carried him successfully through the audition. ‘I found myself rehearsing the next week’ he recalled.

His career with the BBC Symphony Chorus spans well over 30 performances. When asked about his most memorable performance, Richard noted that it was ‘hard to choose, although being on stage for the Last Night of the Proms is pretty special’. A rigorous performance schedule sees the group performing 10 to 12 concerts a year, with rehearsals for the upcoming BBC Prom series beginning in January in order to start learning the music with Chorus Director Stephen Jackson. In the week leading up to the performance, the Chorus will finally meet the conductor for the concert and then work with the Orchestra to polish the piece.

Beyond stage performances the Chorus have also made commercial recordings. Under conductor Sir Andrew Davis, the group’s recording of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius was awarded the BBC Music Magazine Best Choral Disc award and the 2015 Gramophone Best Choral Disk award – a definite highlight in the Professor’s choral career.

Before Professor Green continued onto his next engagement, we asked what his advice would be to students with an interest in entering the renewable energy sector. He noted that the sector’s skills and attitudes will be the same across most other business lines, however “the renewable energy sector is becoming increasingly important, and with that comes increasing opportunities”.

If you would like to read more about Professor Green and his research please click here.

His latest concert can be heard online here until 6 July.

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