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Press releases

    • Electricity North West wins £10m smart grid funding bid

      Electricity North West has secured funding from Ofgem for an ambitious £10m trial which could double the capacity of power networks without the need to install new cables or overhead lines.

      The company plans to open up the half of the North West network that’s currently reserved as a back-up and use it to distribute power to homes and businesses in the region to meet the increasing demand for electricity.

      If successful, the ‘Capacity to Customers’ project could save millions by reducing the need for costly new infrastructure to be built in the region and will support economic growth by providing more capacity to new developments, more quickly and easily.

      Ofgem is providing £9.2m of funding for the project. A further £1.5m will be invested by Electricity North West and other partners, taking the total project value to £10.7m.

      Steve Johnson, CEO of Electricity North West, said: “This project aims to get more out of what’s already built by bringing together new technology developed by our engineers and partners to transform the way distribution companies like Electricity North West operate networks.

      “Half of the electricity network in the region isn’t used and is simply on standby to kick-in when there’s an emergency. This isn’t the most productive use of assets that cost billions to build. Our new project will release this latent capacity on a controlled basis.

      “It will be like opening up the hard shoulder on the motorway, but will have the effect of three hard shoulders because we’re effectively doubling the number of lanes. This could have a profound effect on the way distribution is managed in the future."

      Electricity North West currently owns and manages 13,000km of overhead lines, 43,000km of underground cables and 38,000 transformers distributing power to the 2.4 million properties and 5 million people in the North West.

      However, despite the size of the regional power network, and Electricity North West’s current five year £1.4 billion investment programme, the demand for electricity could double by 2050 as the UK moves towards cleaner energy and reduces its reliance on fossil fuels.

      It’s estimated that the cost of upgrading the UK electricity network by building more infrastructure to meet the demand could be as much as £1.8 billion by 2025 just in the North West, and £15 billion across Great Britain – the equivalent of almost £600 for every household.

      Steve Johnson continued: “The only current viable way to significantly increase the capacity of an electricity network is to build new infrastructure. This requires major construction work, huge investment and disruption.

      “Our new Capacity to Customers project will explore innovative new ways to free up capacity and could be a major step forward for the industry as we move towards a low carbon future for the energy sector."

      Electricity North West will be approaching large businesses in the region to support the project by giving them incentives to prioritise their energy use and to agree that non-essential parts of their supply could be cut off at short notice if a fault occurs, allowing the network to fulfil its fall-back role. This will enable the company to increase the overall load on the network.

      The company predicts that, on average, a fault affecting businesses that sign up to its new agreement would only happen once every five years and only for a very small number of hours while the problem was fixed.

      Electricity North West’s project will run for three years from January 2012. If successful, the project could be extended across the UK by other distribution network operators and lead to reduced energy connection prices and costs for participating businesses.

      Electricity North West was awarded the funding following a bid to Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF).

      Electricity North West will be working on the project with partners including GE Energy, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Flexitricity, EnerNOC, npower, National Grid, University of Manchester and University of Strathclyde.

      For more information from Ofgem on the Low Carbon Networks Fund click here.

    • Firm trials new scheme that could double the amount of electricity that the grid can carry

      As government officials put their heads together to map the future of Britain’s energy generation, a similar challenge lies further down the line.

      For once the power is created, whether by coal, wind, wave or nuclear, it requires the work of another group to reach Britain’s wall plugs – the distributors. 

      With electricity usage predicted to double by 2030, the cost of upgrading the network to meet the demand has been estimated to be £15billion by 2025 – the equivalent of almost £600 for every household.

      One distributor, Electricity North West, is trialling a solution that could double the amount of electricity that the grid could carry – without installing a single new wire in the ground.

      The project is the brainchild of chief executive Steve Johnson and future network manager Steve Cox and is based on the premise that only half of the grid is used. 

      By tapping into the unused half, which currently acts as a back-up, the pair can offer customers and businesses cheaper energy prices, while saving money on digging up the road by using the power lines that already exist. 

      ‘It will have a profound effect on the way distribution is managed in the future,’ said Johnson, who thinks the trial is a blue print for the future of the distribution map. 

      Cox thinks ‘it could take huge bite out of the investment money needed – as much as 45 per cent’. But one of the conditions for the lower prices would be that the customers agree that non-essential parts of their supply could be cut off at short notice if a fault occurs, allowing the network to fulfil its fall-back role. 

      Cox said: ‘We predict that this would happen once every five years, and it would only be for a very small number of hours while the problem was fixed.’

      Johnson said the rise of electric cars and other factors would push demand up, forcing distribution networks to lay more cables. He hopes this scheme, dubbed Capacity to Customers, would avoid the need for that. 

      ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘we can’t promise we won’t need to put down another bit of copper ever. But this will certainly use all that we have now.’ The firm has bid for £10million from the industry regulator Ofgem, and if successful will run a trial between September 2012 and March 2015.

      Source: The Daily Mail

    • Ofgem provides £9.2m for smart grid trial

      Energy watchdog Ofgem gas has agreed to part fund an "ambitious" £10.7m smart grid trial in the North West which could double the capacity of power networks - without installing new cables or overhead lines.

      As part of the 'Capacity to Customers' project, electricity distribution company Electricity North West (ENW) plans to open up half of the North West's electricity network, currently reserved as a back-up, and use it to distribute power to homes and businesses in the region more efficiently. 

      It is thought the scheme could save millions in engineering work by reducing the need for costly new infrastructure to be built in the region, as well as supporting economic growth by providing more capacity to new developments. 

      The project will run for three years from January 2012, and if successful, could be extended across the UK by other distribution network operators. 

      ENW was awarded the funding following a bid to Ofgem's Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF). As a result, Ofgem is providing £9.2m for the project. 

      A further £1.5m will be invested by Electricity North West and other partners, taking the total project value to £10.7m. 

      According to ENW, if successful, the initiative could lead to reduced energy connection prices and costs for participating businesses, while also helping the UK's energy sector move towards a low carbon future. 

      ENW chief executive Steve Johnson, said: "This project aims to get more out of what's already built by bringing together new technology developed by our engineers and partners to transform the way distribution companies like Electricity North West operate networks. 

      "Half of the electricity network in the region isn't used and is simply on standby to kick-in when there's an emergency. This isn't the most productive use of assets that cost billions to build. Our new project will release this latent capacity on a controlled basis. 

      Steve Johnston continued: "The only current viable alternative way to significantly increase the capacity of an electricity network is to build new infrastructure. This requires major construction work, huge investment and disruption." 

      In order to encourage large businesses to support the project, ENW said it will be offering firms incentives to prioritise their energy use, and to agree that non-essential parts of their supply could be cut off at short notice if a fault occurs. 

      By getting bigger companies on board, ENW anticipates that this will enable it to increase the overall load on the network, which will help support a stronger back-up network. 

      The project will be carried out by ENW in partnership with GE Digital Energy, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Flexitricity, EnerNOC, npower, National Grid, University of Manchester and University of Strathclyde.

      Source: Edie Energy