Network February 2018

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NETWORK / 8 / FEBRUARY 2018 " You learn, you change, you adapt and you move forward." The pace of innovation across the gas and electricity networks is perhaps best summed up by this phrase. But speaking to me over coffee in London, David Smith warns that this pace must con - tinue. "The big danger is if you stop innovation things will slow down. You need to keep push- ing because we're going through a point where we're learning as we're developing. We look LCNI REVIEW a er engineering standards within the ENA and we know that those standards are going to have to change because as we go through we're learning and therefore we need to change and develop." My chat with Smith comes just a week a er the ENA's Low Carbon Networks Innovation (LCNI) Conference, which took place in Telford. The event provided an oppor - tunity to explore key learnings from electricity and gas network innovation projects. It also fea- tured networking opportunities in addition to project focused presentations and workshops. Smith is pleased with how the event went, but with the show in its seventh year he admitted there were challenges around ensuring it continues to improve. He said: "Is there still a desire for the information to be out there? Last year we had a lot of feedback." The 2016 event was run over three days, but following feed - back the ENA took the decision to reduce it to two. "When I was walking round the exhibition had a real buzz about it," continues Smith. "Lots of people were able to pick up and have conversations. It felt like there was a really good vibe." So what were some of the key trends talked about at the 2017 show? Here comes that word innovation again. "For me there's a need to drive innovation forward," remarked Smith. "Through innovation we're changing the Driving innovation forward David Smith, chief executive of the Energy Networks Association (ENA), reflects on the recent Low Carbon Networks Innovation (LCNI) Conference and gives his views on the sector. whole dynamics of the sector, but we're doing it at a pace that many people thought we couldn't do." There was an international feel to this year's event with del- egate representation from across Europe and America. "They use it as an exemplar of how the regulator and compa- nies can work together," notes Smith. "It's important to be close to your regulator because it benefits the customers." Setting the tone During the conference pro- gramme, Jonathan Brearley, Ofgem's senior partner for networks, talked about the increasing need for network companies to use innovation in everyday working practices rather than relying solely on incentive programmes. Smith was encouraged by his comments: "It's about how we innovate to bring other sectors, who we might not traditionally talk to, into this whole partner - ship approach. "We know what we can do and how we can innovate, but how can we use others to help us innovate? How are we going to use suppliers to help us in - novate? How do we bring the consumers along with us? "I was very encouraged by Jonathan's comments and I think he sounded the right note. It set a nice tone for the confer - ence." One of the key things high- lighted at the 2017 event was a focus on a 'whole systems' ap- proach – where gas and electric- ity networks work together. Smith says: "People forget there's lots of innovation in gas as well. We've been very clear that it is a whole system energy approach which we're taking. I believe the future of gas is there, whether that is natural gas, syn - thetic, bio-methane produced gas, or hydrogen. That future and the use of our networks, which are probably some of the most comprehensive in Europe, will really help to deliver for the consumer over the next 30, 40 or 50 years.

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