I wonder if, perhaps, the issues of energy consumption would best be addressed with two ideas:
1. An increase to the maximum standard energy capacity…
… rather than a change to its rate of expenditure or recharge. In many cases, returning to a station is as much to resupply on munitions as it is to refill the tank; this means ships would still be withdrawing often enough, especially in the face of larger opponents due to the use of echo and omega orders. Yet, such a change would still increase our ability to engage larger groups of lighter targets over extended periods of time and/or allow for longer travel times without overly impacting later engagements.
2. The implementation of Advance Resupply Caches (ARCs)…
… primarily for deep strikes when our ships are away from allied station. In game terms, these would be similar to anomalies spawned/scripted in at specific locations. The RP idea is that these locations are where the TSN would stow fuel and/or munitions intended to be used by TSN ships in need during deployment outside of their protected space. This could help drastically reduce refuel times during such missions. However, these ARC locations change regularly and are known only to High Command: ARC coordinates would be supplied solely at their discretion.
In short, an increase to the standard energy cap combined with an almost “deus-ex-machina” resupply option would help cut back on energy refills without entirely removing the need to conserve fuel.
As far as any desire for tighter maneuvers and trickier piloting, I’d argue that’s what the scout is for. Having flown a few, the difference in turning and ac/de|celeration is quite noticeable. Though, I admit it’d be interesting to fly larger ships that way. Perhaps an alteration to TSN ship coding to increase their maneuvering? Justify it with an advancement in tech, provided by our recent alien “refugees” to whom we’re providing asylum. It’d be similar to how we gained Jump tech (if I’m not butchering the lore).