Utility Week

Utility Week 8th November 2013

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

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Interview W hen St Jude, the storm named for the patron saint of lost causes, struck the UK last week, hundreds of thousands of homes were left without power. Within 24 hours, all but 60,000 of them were back up and running. Some networks even lent field staff to UKPN, the worst hit, so customers could have their power restored sooner. It was a timely reminder of how crucial power is, and how resilient thanks to the UK's infrastructure and those who service it. While politicians and the national media have been waging a furious war with energy suppliers, every person in the country can still walk to the nearest wall and casually flip a light switch on. That's thanks in large part to the distribution networks, the companies that take power through the ground from National Grid's transmission network to homes and businesses across the country. Days before the storm, Utility Week met David Smith, the man who runs their trade body, the Energy Networks Association, to talk about the challenges of creating a low-carbon network amidst a changing mix of generation and distribution. Relaxed and friendly in his home town of Brighton, Smith is relieved that the preparations for the third annual Low Carbon Network Fund (LCNF) conference this month are completed – "touch wood", he chuckles, tapping the metal table. The LCNF, a government programme to fund innovation in the networks, is close to his heart, encapsulating and enabling the transformation networks are experiencing. "If you go back ten years, networks were the quiet, invisible bit of the industry," he admits. "We'd been there since National Grid was finished in the 30s and the transmission system was completed. We put copper in the ground, and in the overhead wires, and it was very much a 'build and forget'. The last big push for the distribution system was in the 50s and 60s, where there was this dash for nuclear." UTILITY WEEK | 8th - 14th November 2013 | 9

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