At Northern Powergrid, we want to be a force for good in communities across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire. For us, this means more than managing the network of underground cables and overhead lines that power peoples’ lives. It is about supporting our communities to help everyone benefit from decarbonisation and the opportunities it provides.
- Becoming a cornerstone for our local economies by enabling economic growth and supporting a green recovery.
- Being an inclusive employer that reflects and supports the diverse communities we serve.
- Providing gold-standard customer service to all by investing responsibly and delivering improvements with the different needs of our communities in mind.
- Ensuring that connecting to our network is simple for all to accelerate a future energy system that supports more low carbon technologies and electric vehicles.
- Doing everything in our power to ensure this energy future supports every member of our society.
As we develop our new business plan for 2023 and beyond, we’ve heard from members of our community about the priority areas that we should invest in. This feedback is so valuable and enables us to effectively plan how we spend customer money and increase the positive impact that we have on the lives we power.
Cornerstone for Local Economies
As a starting point, we are committing to be the cornerstone of the regional economy.
We already spend £1 million every day on managing, maintaining and improving our local network, almost all of which is invested locally across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire. Every £1 we spend benefits the local economy by around another whole £1, demonstrating the key role we have in driving economic regeneration.
As a major regional employer, we also invest in our people to deliver outstanding service and to create exciting careers that support personal development. This contributes to our communities, ensures we remain an employer of choice and will support a green economic recovery from COVID-19. By the start of 2023, we will have created over 1,000 new career opportunities compared with 2015, with more local job creation in the pipeline.
The UK Government’s Energy White Paper provides a brilliant perspective of the mountain that needs to be climbed to make our homes more efficient using heat pump and smart technology. We play a significant role in leading this charge towards more efficient homes and supporting customers, particularly the most vulnerable in our communities, to decarbonise their lives.
Our work in delivering a smart, active energy network can also provide more jobs across the regional economy – in IT, telecoms and commercial sectors. This ripple effect of a smart, decarbonised energy system can further support our region’s strong economic recovery and growth.
Diversity and inclusion is also extremely important to us. We want to ensure our workforce better represents the genders, races and sexualities of people across our region and this will be a key focus of our future workforce renewal and development plans.
Evolving these activities to support local growth and high-quality jobs will ensure Northern Powergrid is playing a key role in delivering for our regional economy and developing the skills needed for further growth.
The Government’s Ten Point Plan outlined how on a national level, it intends to drive forward the growth of low carbon hydrogen and accelerate the shift to zero emission vehicles. Our region -and Northern Powergrid - will play a pivotal role in enabling this kind of decarbonisation so it is essential we are ready to work with new industries to share skills, knowledge and services.
Gold Standard Customer Service for All
We want to achieve a leading customer service for all our customers. Innovative brands like Amazon and Uber are setting the standard. We plan to use them as a benchmark to deliver a seamless customer experience and ensure our service exceeds expectations. We want to delight our customers.
Our region has some of the UK’s highest levels of customer vulnerability. This includes people who are medically dependent on electricity, the elderly and the disabled – as well as people who are feeling the effects of fuel poverty. We are committed to consistently providing tailored high-quality support for our vulnerable customers and championing energy efficiency to help those who may be struggling with their energy costs – and we plan to go further in the next price period.
In our current business planning period, we’ve invested £4 million in our customer service systems and delivered enhanced ‘Customer First’ training to achieve a strong customer satisfaction rate of 89% (a 7% increase).
We can already be contacted through Twitter, Facebook and web chat and, of course, over the phone or by post. We’re also exploring how we can use additional platforms, such as WhatsApp, Instagram and video call. By making it easy for people to contact us digitally, we can free up resources for our vulnerable customers who need to speak to someone directly at our 24-hour contact centre.
Inclusive Connections Process
Finally, the drive towards net zero carbon emissions means that being able to connect to our network quickly and cost-effectively is more important than ever before.
We’ve launched innovative new tools and technologies to support this. For instance, our AutoDesign technology reduces the time for customers to get quotes for low-voltage connections, such as new electric vehicle chargers, from 10 days to just 10 minutes. Stakeholder feedback is already telling us how vital this tool is, particularly during the current pandemic, as it is enabling customers to continue to explore and progress connections work that will support their business, community and local economy. We have also improved our interactive heat maps that help customers access up-to-date network capacity information.
In the future, we will continue improving the current connections process for all stakeholders across our region by simplifying the process to deliver higher levels of flexibility to facilitate the low carbon transition. One option could see us cutting the time to connect by 40% (15 days) on average.
Balancing power network priorities
As we move into the next price control period, we have developed several options for our future plans and received thousands of responses from customers across our regions. The options ranged from continuing to play an active role in our communities for a more affordable price, to using more of our customers’ money to drive decarbonisation and break new ground. The responses and opinions of our customers are important as we build our plan for 2023 and beyond.
Influencing our business plan
Northern Powergrid already plays an integral role in our communities and this role will be even more vital in the coming years as we seek to bounce back from COVID-19.
We’ve already identified locations across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire that would benefit from extra investment in the electricity network and are now seeking evidence from our stakeholders to help us determine which sites would bring the most benefit to the communities in our region. This investment would be ‘ahead of need’ and is designed to help support green growth projects to come to fruition faster. It is part of a national Green Recovery Scheme to boost green growth and accelerate decarbonisation.
Working with our customers, local authority leaders and experts from across our region remain key to us delivering our next plan for the next price control period (2023-2018) set by Ofgem, the UK energy regulator. Through listening and working in partnership with our key stakeholders we can help create a plan that supports the whole region as we move forward to create a greener energy future that’s a force for good for all.
By Siobhan Barton, Head of Stakeholder Relations