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18/08/2011: Electricity North West in £10m Innovation Fund bid

The North West’s electricity network operator has today made a £10m bid for government funding to increase capacity on the region’s network and help meet the UK’s tough low-carbon targets.

Electricity North West’s innovative proposal to Ofgem's Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF) involves using new technology to increase the energy demands transmitted through the infrastructure that’s already in place throughout the region.

The project, dubbed Capacity to Customers, (C2C), will take advantage of the latent capacity that exists within the current network and could reduce the amount of new infrastructure that would normally be needed to meet growing demand for electricity, which is predicted to double by 2050.

Electricity North West’s chief executive, Steve Johnson, said: “At any given time, the existing distribution network could theoretically carry up to twice as much electricity to homes and businesses in the region – but this additional capacity is currently required in case there is a fault. It's a long-established principle and requirement for all distribution network operators to have this latent capacity built into their network.

“Secure power supplies are critical for all our customers and for the North West’s economic activity. The move to a low carbon economy we will see much higher demand for electricity in future with some experts predicting a doubling in demand by 2050.

“The cost of simply doubling the existing network would be huge and so Electricity North West is leading several areas of research into new ways of getting more capacity from the existing network. This research will help ensure costs are kept to a minimum whilst maintaining secure power supplies to customers.

Electricity North West’s C2C project will involve major energy users in the region signing up to a trial which will offer incentives to switch their consumption patterns and prioritise their energy usage. If successful, it could lead to reduced costs for new connections and lower charges for participating businesses.

If funding is secured and the project approved, the C2C trial will run for two and a half years and involve an investment of £10.7m. Electricity North West is bidding for £9.1m of LCNF cash as part of the project’s total funding requirements.

The LCNF allows up to £500m support for DNO-sponsored projects to try out new technology, operating and commercial arrangements.

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