Utility Week

UTILITY Week 28th April 2017

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24 | 28TH APRIL - 4TH MAY 2017 | UTILITY WEEK Operations & Assets Market view I t has never been quick or easy getting major infrastructure projects off the ground, but the task is now more oner- ous than ever. Political apprehension, ris- ing costs and, especially, uncertainties over Brexit and the snap general election, have seen initiatives deferred. Last year, only four development consent order applications were made to the Plan- ning Inspectorate, compared with 12 in 2015 and 18 in both 2013 and 2014. The Planning Inspectorate expects investment in wind, solar, biomass power and waste-to-energy projects to decline by 95 per cent between now and 2020. At the same time, the RIIO (revenue = incentives + innovation + outputs) frame- work requires the timely and efficient delivery of projects, and stipulates that network companies must remain finance- able. This places limits on how much com- panies can spend on their network and charge customers, incentivising maximum cost-effectiveness. We all agree that the market and RIIO converge on the fundamental need for effi- ciency and cost-effectiveness in realising pro- jects. And that means thorough preparation and a firm grasp of detail at all stages. Without these, it is easy to disregard basic components of the development process. Project failure can come from such elemen- tary issues as inadequate consultation and inconsistent documentation. Other common obstacles include land interests being dis- covered too late; failure to consult crucial stakeholders; late changes to an Environ- mental Impact Assessment; or simply prema- ture acquiescence to objectors, inspectors or statutory bodies. All of these impediments can be resolved by collating up-to-date data and managing it in parallel with the consultation and plan- ning process. It is a highly complex business, relying on scrupulously maintained, accurate information covering all the social, environ- mental, economic and engineering criteria that affect the route and impact of the project. That means collating data on such issues as land ownership, environmental designa- tions (such as sites of special scientific inter- est or areas of outstanding natural beauty), geology, geography and the progress of other local developments currently in the planning process that might be impacted by the pro- ject. On one project in Cumbria, 30,000 title interests were affected. There is therefore a real need to find effi- ciencies to speed up the development and to minimise costs: investment in time and money at the start will save a great deal of both in the long run. One way in which these efficiencies could be achieved is by using a fine-tuned property information database to maximise efficiency. Such a database, incorporating geo- graphic information systems (GIS) mapping, can fast-track big national infrastructure pro- jects or wayleaving projects. This approach is being used by a number of electricity com- panies (distribution network operators) with great success, and we are seeing interest from other utility companies. It can also play a part in identifying the optimum route of any linear infrastruc- ture through the analysis of many layers of data. This allows us to construct a least- cost budget by selecting the best route that avoids environmental designations; finds the most economic engineering solutions; avoids areas with future development potential; and has a good chance of legal agreements being negotiated within a reasonable time frame. First, the system finds out who owns each parcel of land along the proposed route, so that all landowners can be properly con- sulted and we know from the outset who the major stakeholders are. This requires close inspection of Land Registry records and the ability to interrogate Title. Engineering is the other major element that needs scoping: how easy will construc- tion be? Obviously, the companies need the easiest option in terms of terrain and geol- ogy. A system must be able to show the type of ground in any given area, flagging up potential pitfalls (such as areas of hard rock) and allowing estimates for costs such as river crossings. At the same time it is important to pro- duce a robust negotiation strategy to acquire land rights. What is the right sum that will motivate a landowner to settle by agreement? When might you need to consider compul- sory acquisition? Obviously, this information can only be gathered by local knowledge and personal interaction; adding it to the system builds up the bigger picture. Alongside these major strands of information, advanced property information databases are used to track other develop- ments that are going through the planning system. It is all about keeping tabs on every factor that could affect the successful deliv- ery of a project: it holds a project together while streamlining processes and thus sav- ing money. Ultimately, smarter approaches to manag- ing property data help utilities save time and money — crucial in the current climate. At a time when successful projects need more strategic planning than ever, it is proving invaluable in helping to smooth access to today's infrastructure market. Tim Waterfield, head of strategic projects, Savills Data to drive development By collating data on factors that could affect the successful delivery of a project and managing it alongside consultation and planning, processes can be streamlined and money saved, says Tim Waterfield. Key points The Planning Inspectorate expects investment in wind, solar, biomass power and waste-to-energy projects to decline by 95 per cent between now and 2020. Project failure can come down to such elementary issues as inadequate consultation and inconsistent documentation. There is a need to find efficiencies to speed up development and to minimise costs. RaPID, a database incorporating GIS mapping, is designed to fast-track big national infrastructure projects or wayleaving projects.

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