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INVESTING TO DELIVER NETWORK SAFETY AND RELIABILITY

18 September 2020

INVESTING TO DELIVER NETWORK SAFETY AND RELIABILITY

18 September 2020

At Northern Powergrid, we’re preparing for our next business plan for 2023 and beyond. As part of this our number one priority is to ensure we’re investing the right amount to deliver a safe and reliable network for our people and all of our customers across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire.

Safety and reliability are primary focuses because:

  1. It is vital we continually make improvements and keep our power network safe for everyone that uses it and our people who work on it.
  2. Consultation has shown us that reliability of the power network is consistently our customers’ top priority, and they want us to maintain and improve it as decarbonisation drives demand for power.

A part of business planning, Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) – like Northern Powergrid – must balance investment in safety and reliability with the costs that customers pay on the bill from their chosen electricity supplier for network-related charges. That’s why it’s important our customers have a voice in what happens to the network that powers their life today - and in the future.

We’re listening carefully to what they have to say so we can fully understand their safety and reliability priorities as we shape our plans.

COVID-19 and climate change
Electricity is vital to modern-day society as we know it - and the impact of COVID-19 has highlighted this more than ever. The pandemic has turned our societies upside down, but the safe and reliable transmission of power to hospitals and communities has been critical in the country’s response. Our network powers your everyday life, from kettles to dialysis machines and factory equipment to the device you’re reading this on. As such, powering people’s homes has helped many maintain some sense of normality in these challenging times, enabling home working for some and family get togethers via video call.

The importance of electricity is set to grow even further as we mobilise to tackle one of the world’s biggest challenges – climate change.

The electrification of typically carbon-intensive industries, such as transport and heating, offer huge opportunities for us to enable the UK’s legally binding net zero carbon emission 2050 target. However, this additional load on the UK power systems can present challenges as well as opportunities for DNOs. We must think carefully about the way we’ll manage network growth whilst ensuring we still deliver industry-leading safety and reliability standards.

Balancing power network priorities
Within RIIO-ED1 to date, we have focused on going above and beyond for our customers. 

We’ve demonstrated this by:

  • Rolling out innovative safety technology, including state-of-the art workwear and fatigue monitoring apps.
  • Exceeding our health and performance targets.
  • Modernising our network with an £83m investment in the smart grid.
  • Investing around £1 million a day on managing, maintaining and improving our network.
  • Forming an independent expert panel to challenge the technical aspects of our plans.

As we move into our next price control period (2023-2028) set by Ofgem, the UK’s energy regulator – we’ve developed several options for our future plans and we’d like our customers to help us prioritise them.

The options range from continuing to maintain the safety and reliability of our network for a more affordable price, to investing more of our customer’s money from the network-related charges they pay to carry out major upgrades and break new ground.

For example, if each of our customers paid an extra £1.02 a year on average, we could invest in artificial intelligence, automation and robotics to take the safety of our network to new levels. We could collaborate more with agricultural and construction sectors to help prevent accidents by developing GPS solutions for large vehicles close to overhead lines.

Does this feel like the right thing for Northern Powergrid to do? That’s what we are asking our customers and industry stakeholders now.

Influencing our business plan
Our aim is to deliver the optimum level of safety and reliability at the right cost for all, while maintaining our focus on delivering the net zero power system of the future. We want to hear from you about how far we should go – and at what pace.

To find out how you can share your views on our safety and reliability options for 2023 to 2028, or to join one of our events where this will be discussed, visit our dedicated website here.

By Andy Bilclough, Director of Field Operations

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