At Northern Powergrid, our customers have told us that the environment is their second most important priority. It’s clear why – severe weather events caused by the climate crisis and changing weather pattern can impact on the reliability of electricity networks, which is our customers’ first priority.
For us, our commitment to environmental protection encompasses many aspects of climate change adaptation to protect against emerging threats, coupled with the long-standing commitments we have always had around issues such as industrial pollution, air quality and the visual aesthetics of our network equipment.
Our climate is changing. Whilst we haven’t seen a significant increase in the number of weather-related events each year, over the last decade we have seen more caused by heavy rain and flooding. That is why we have invested and installed more than 185 flood defences since 2015.
Beyond our changing climate, the nature of our business means that our operations can pose a range of further potential environmental impacts. This includes the overall sustainability of our offices, depots, and vehicles, as well as the activities we carry out to maintain and repair our network.
Planning for our future
These changes mean that planning for our future is vital. Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) – like Northern Powergrid – have to balance the environmental improvements we make with the ultimate costs that’s our customers pay through network-related changes on their bills from their chosen energy supplier.
We balance these costs and decisions through RIIO (Revenue = Incentives + Innovation + Outputs) price control periods set by the energy regulator, Ofgem. During each price control periods, all DNOs set out what they must deliver for customers and the associated cost within a certain timeframe. This process provides DNOs with incentives to meet the challenges of delivering a low carbon, sustainable energy sector alongside value for money for customers.
Through business planning, which is taking place now for the 2023-29 period, DNOs can play their part in delivering changes that move us closer to net zero and the greener energy future set out in the Prime Minister's Ten Point Plan, the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget and the recently published Energy White Paper.
We’ve published our emerging thinking including a range of delivery and price options for RIIO-ED2, along with a detailed microsite and have been engaging extensively with our customers and a range of other key stakeholders.
Climate Change Adaptation
We are committed to accelerating and enabling decarbonisation. But, even with significant climate action, the Met Office predicts warmer, wetter winters and hotter, drier summers will be more common. We have therefore begun to adapt our network in response, for instance by building resilience through asset maintenance in the worst effected parts of our network and holding stocks of critical equipment for times of need.
Ensuring safe restoration of power following a flood is critical to homes, businesses and the emergency services. Our defense programme meets national standards and we have already installed enhanced flood protection at nearly 100 of our critical infrastructure sites. We are building the resilience of our assets so, as soon as it’s safe to do so following a flood, the power can flow. By the end of 2021, we will have increased this by 150%.
Our focus will be on ensuring our investments in this area are grounded in science, future-proofing our equipment and expanding cross-industry collaboration.
We have engaging our customers to find out what their priorities are and how much they would like us to invest.
When it comes to protecting the environment around us, we are on track to significantly out-perform our RIIO-ED1 environmental commitments and we have set stretch targets to go further by 2023. We are performing well in this area and are near the top of the DNO pack on a number of key environmental protection measures, including length of cables undergrounded, and the amount of oil and fluid lost to ground. We have also reduced single-use plastics in our offices by 70% over the last two years and continue to work with our wider supply chain to remove plastics and other packaging from the tools, plant, equipment and materials we purchase.
Our customers have told us that we should continue to lead the way in this area. We know that they want us to focus on the business activities we are responsible for, while also setting standards for protecting the environment throughout our supply chain.
Ultimately, we are committed to talking with our customers and stakeholders about these vital areas so we can progress our climate response and enabling their own ambitions at the right pace.
Keep up to date with our plans as they emerge by visiting our dedicated website.
by Gordon Walker, Environmental Manager, Northern Powergrid