A transformational energy vision helps transition to a bright energy future

As part of ENA’s Open Networks Project, Paul Bircham, Commercial Strategy & Support Director at Electricity North West discusses the transition to flexible Distribution ‘System’ Operator (DSO) model from the traditional Distribution Network Operator (DNO) model.

By 2050, the UK is tasked with achieving an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions. Last year, for the first time, more than half of all electricity consumed in the UK was generated from zero carbon sources and these new demands means the power network and the infrastructure in place needs to transform and adapt with new and innovative ways to ensure the power continues to flow.

At Electricity North West we believe that the evolution we are going through in our industry presents an exciting proposition for us as a business and our job now is to develop new relationships with customers, the community and partners in the energy supply chain.

As the North West’s power network operator we have launched our vision for how we will help transform how energy is delivered across the region, from electric vehicles to community energy schemes. The report, ‘Powering the North West’s Future’, sets out our innovative plans to meet the Government’s energy decarbonisation challenge by supporting people, businesses and energy producers across the North West region.

Replacing the traditional Distribution Network Operator (DNO) model, the report outlines the key roles and responsibilities of a smarter, more flexible Distribution ‘System’ Operator (DSO) model and the technical and regulatory challenges the industry faces in transitioning to this new model. This followers our evidence paper ‘The vital role for distribution system operators’ which was launched last year to set out the challenges and opportunities with the UK’s transition to a smart flexible energy system.

While the nature and pace of change in the North West cannot be predicted with certainty, it is vital that we identify likely themes and priorities now, so that everyone in our region can face the future with confidence. We are certain that the new report will help to inform regional and national debate about the future role of DSOs.

Created by the views and expectations of our stakeholders, we can highlight eight key areas that will help achieve the region’s decarbonisation targets as an active Distribution System Operator:

  • Electric vehicles
  • Community energy
  • Renewable energy sources
  • New energy markets
  • Electricity for heat
  • Flexible consumption
  • Active consumer
  • Supporting economic growth

The energy market is currently undergoing a huge transformation. The traditional top down energy model is being redefined to a much more distributed model, and as a leading voice on energy policy, the report outlines how we intend to drive this vital transition.

While the active decentralised model will enable us to support the production of energy locally and directly to communities, using renewable sources, it does present the need for network operators to transform into a smarter more flexible power network. This report highlights how we can meet these new future demands while ensuring bills remain affordable for our customers and supplies remain reliable.

We’ve already taken steps towards the transition, including speaking at the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham’s inaugural Green Summit, which outlined plans for making it one of the greenest cities in Europe.

In our advisory role we also launched a consumer hub - the Big Energy Conversation – aimed at getting the public actively engaged and switched on to the reality of energy consumption. Featuring advice and insights from internal and external experts from across the energy sector, the website arms people with all the information they might need to make important decisions on how they use electricity.

It’s an extremely exciting time for the energy industry and we’re proud of the steps we’ve made and will continue to make towards ensuring customers and our communities benefit from a flexible, green and clean energy network.



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