Utility Week

Utility Week 21st February 2014

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generation committed within the UK Power Networks area during 2013, some 1,300MW, represents the lion's share of solar DG con- nected within the UK. Recognising the importance of this sig- nificant area of growth, distribution net- work operators (DNOs) have been working collaboratively to promote the facilitation of additional DG installations and have been updating the DG community through a series of Ofgem-sponsored forums over the past three years. At UK Power Networks we knew early on that we had to take a fresh look at how we provide connection services to this important market. Through an ongoing series of planned cus- tomer experience workshops, we've set out to build our own improve- ment plan around the views of our customers and used this feedback to help prioritise development across our business. Our approach has been to focus our efforts around a limited num- ber of key themes. For example, improving the application process for customers. In this area, much of our effort has been in support- ing our customers before they get to the point of making an application for connection. We have published heat maps online, giving a clearer overview of network availability, and we have introduced DG surgeries to ena- ble customers to meet with our teams to dis- cuss the viability of their projects in advance of making a formal application. These infor- mal surgeries enable customers to get a feel for the likely costs and timelines of providing a connection, enabling them to concentrate on the projects within their portfolio with the greatest viability. The growth of the DG market has pushed parts of our network to very high levels of utilisation. As a consequence, UK Power Networks, through the support of the Ofgem- sponsored Low Carbon Network Fund, is carrying out groundbreaking trials to help support the further connection of DG across 8 | 21st - 27th February 2014 | utILIty WeeK Comment S omething remarkable is happening within the UK electricity distribution sector. Networks that have been tradi- tionally designed and built to distribute elec- tricity in one direction from the national grid through to commercial, industrial and domes- tic customers are increasingly hosting large numbers of distributed generators (DGs), exporting power from the primary renewable resources of wind and solar energy. At UK Power Networks, we have found ourselves in the vanguard of the growth in this sector as generators seek to secure con- nection to the local distribution system. From a historical base activity level of around 200 enquiries in 2008, volumes have increased at a phenomenal rate to almost 3,500 in 2012, with a further doubling in 2013 to just under 7,000 enquiries. This trend started in our East of England network, mainly covering Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, but more recently there has been a trend southwards, to our South East network, par- ticularly Kent and East Sussex. The increase is driven largely by changes to legislation in the UK. Legislation through the Climate Change Act 2008 set legally bind- ing targets to reduce the UK's greenhouse gas emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and at least 80 per cent lower than the 1990 base- line by 2050. Subsequently, The Carbon Plan published by the government in December 2011 sets out how the UK will achieve decar- bonisation within the framework of energy policy and make the transition to a low- carbon economy. Incentives to promote investment in low- carbon DG have taken a number of forms, including the Renewables Obligation (RO) introduced in 2002 and the feed-in tariff (FIT) scheme introduced in 2010 to promote the widespread uptake of a range of small-scale (5MW or less) renewable and low-carbon generation technologies. While the growth in enquiry volumes for the connection of DG is not unique to UK Power Networks, the geography of our area is especially well suited to the development of solar farms and this has driven a great deal of the activity. The total capacity of solar Unlocking network potential By accessing heat maps and distributed generation surgeries before they make an application for connection, UKPN customers can identify which of their low-carbon projects is the most viable. Chief executive's view Basil Scarsella, UK Power Networks our electricity networks. The £9 million tier 2 Low Carbon Network Fund Flexible Plug and Play project is developing innovative ways to connect DG schemes in an area of Cambridgeshire which has seen a significant increase in wind and solar generators want- ing to connect their plants to the network. The project is trialling faster and cheaper ways of connecting DG to the network using new technologies such as active network management and dynamic line rating. When paired with innovative new commercial arrangements, which enable occasional net- works constraints to be managed through a transparent mechanism, we believe there is real potential to unlock further capacity to connect DG across our networks. We've made it a key priority to ensure competition can work effectively and that can be clearly seen within the DG market. Of the projects constructed/due for con- struction, more than half of them are delivered by independent con- nections providers (ICPs). One project that encapsulates many of these themes is Stradis- hall Broxted, on the Suffolk/Essex border. This is a solar farm with an installed capacity of 23MW cov- ering an area of almost 150 acres. The project is connected to our 33kV network via an ICP installed 4km cable and generates enough energy to power more than 8,000 homes. Throughout the whole process, there has been a clear spirit of collaboration from all the parties involved, including the local community, to ensure the project is delivered successfully. The East Anglian Daily Times newspaper recently said Stradishall Broxted "is about to set a new benchmark for green energy by bringing online a site that has minimal vis- ual impact, which works harmoniously with existing ecological habitats and generates enough energy to power an entire town". Overall, DNOs are doing their utmost to facilitate DG connection and contribute to the move to a low-carbon economy. "We knew early on that we had to take a fresh look at how we provide connection services"

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