Utility Week

UTILITY Week 1st April 2016

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24 | 1ST - 7TH APRIL 2016 | UTILITY WEEK Operations & Assets Conference Future Networks Birmingham, 15 March 2016 It's not the technology that's the problem… It's the commercial and regulatory issues that present the biggest obstacles to the development of electricity and gas networks, according to speakers at Utility Week's Future Networks Conference. Tom Grimwood was there. A s Britain's networks undergo some of the most fundamental changes to the way they work since they were cre- ated, delegates at Utility Week's Future Net- works Conference in Birmingham, sponsored by Schneider Electric and Kelvatek, heard that the biggest obstacles to progress are not technical but commercial and regulatory. "The technical bit is the easy bit," said SSE Power Distribution (SSEPD) head of asset management and innovation Stewart Reid. The hard bit is "the commercial chal- lenge" and making new developments part of "business as usual". Energy Networks Association head of engineering Kieran Coughlin agreed, say- ing that when it comes to something like demand-side response (DSR) "a lot of the technical challenges, while significant, are probably being addressed". He said the focus needs to be on creating markets and putting the right regulatory frameworks in place. Another example is storage, according National Grid's director of system operation, Phil Sheppard. Although "battery prices have halved in six years" there are "some regulatory and commercial barriers to over- come". More specifically, he said, there is a need for legal clarification because "a lack of a proper definition for storage is causing uncertainty for investors". Tim Rotheray, director of the Association for Decentralised Energy, said he saw an inevitable move towards a regulated envi- ronment for district heating, saying it would de-risk investment and create a level playing field for the sector. He also called for financial incentives to be put in place to encourage co-operation between network operators so mutual ben- efits can be realised. "If you could translate that value into something that could then be shared between the different systems, that would be really powerful," he said. Other highlights at this event included the announcement of a new research project by SSEPD looking at how electric vehicles (EVs) could be used to provide DSR for distribu- tion networks. The aim is to come up with an engineering recommendation for a "common device" for local substations that can com- municate with all different types of chargers. Delegates also heard about SGN's trial of new mixes of gas in Oban, SP Energy Net- work's tests of dynamic thermal ratings for substations and UK Power Networks' battery storage facility in Leighton Buzzard. Northern Powergrid's head of trading and innovation, Jim Cardwell, presented find- ings from the company's research into how demand is affected by new technologies such as EVs and heat pumps, and Western Power Distribution innovation and low-carbon net- works engineer Jonathan Berry explained how the company is finding new ways to squeeze more use out of existing capacity. Barrie Cressey, director of smart grids at Schneider Electric, described how its new adaptive protection soware, Respond, could find real-time solutions to network faults, while Jonathan Rodgers, future networks manager for Kelvatek, explained how tech- nology was enabling the safe interconnec- tion of multiple local distribution networks. Meanwhile, the head of future electric- ity networks at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, David Capper, told delegates the department was hoping to say something later this year about moves to achieve greater independence for the system operator. "We work very well with Ofgem and National Grid. We have very productive conversations," he said. "We just need to see where that work takes us."

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