The electricity network revolution – what’s next?

The electricity network is changing rapidly. Those that manage it, the Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), have weathered the storm of solar PV applications over the past few years, and now face a blast of energy storage applications.

Working with the DNOs to help them adapt to the changing energy system has been a key priority for Regen SW. In this article Regen review where they have got to.

Network innovation

Innovation is a critical ingredient of a smarter network and DNOs have been funded by Ofgem to investigate specific ideas. The learning from these projects is used to improve practices across the network operators. Regen has managed the Sunshine Tariff innovation project and hosted two national events with the Energy Networks Association (ENA) on how communities can engage with innovation. While the DNOs have made good progress, the learning from these projects needs to incorporate the general industry and turn into business as usual.

In answer to Ofgem’s ‘Quicker, more efficient connections’ document last year, the DNO community are discussing ways of unlocking spare capacity in the network.

This has led to DNOs:

• providing more information on flexible connection types

• looking again at the consortia model for network connections

• and assessing ways of reclaiming unused network capacity.

In addition, the reintroduction of assessment and design fees for new connections is also likely. The present situation of free quotations means that speculative applications are commonplace. These fees should reduce the time (and money) wasted by DNOs and developers. A consultation on the subject is expected soon.
DNO’s invest in the network

A further change we have perceived, is in the treatment of strategic network reinforcement by DNOs, i.e. upgrading the network in areas where new capacity could be needed in the future. A few years ago the idea of a DNO investing in strategic network reinforcement was taboo. Now a number of DNOs are trialling the investment model with support from Ofgem. Regen provides Western Power Distribution (WPD) the information it needs to decide where to invest in reinforcement, by modelling the demands on their network up to 2030. The leading DNOs are taking on the challenge of strategic network reinforcement. We hope others will follow their good example soon.

Switching from deployment to management

As the pace of renewable energy deployment slows, maximising the value and performance of the assets installed has become a higher priority. On behalf of Western Power Distribution (WPD) we host an owner/operator forum which aims to reduce the impact of outages and constraints on generators. Around 6 GW of generation is represented in these sessions, with one operator admitting that they lost £600,000 of income last year from outages. To attend please do get in contact.

Call for evidence – get involved

The electricity network is in a period of rapid transformation. A good amount of work has been done to improve the way in which the network is managed. However, some considerable systemic barriers do remain. Drafting a coherent set of regulations in order to deliver a smart and flexible network is the task of the long-awaited call for evidence from the new Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Ofgem. Regen is hosting a seminar with BEIS on the call for evidence at our annual Renewable Futures conference. We also have National Grid, WPD and UK Power Networks speaking about their vision. So book your place now to get the latest on the future of the electricity network.