Can innovation be business as usual?

Another year of impressive innovation and another hugely successful annual conference for the unique Low Carbon Networks Fund last week in Cardiff. Covering everything from the vital engagement with communities through to the detail and technicalities of the new technologies being deployed, the learning from the LCN Fund was startling.

But how do we translate this success of innovation into the day-to-day of running efficient networks that can deliver a return for the customers’ investment?

This has already happened in one case. Electricity North West tested the ‘Bidoyng’ so-called Smart Fuse as part of a project they started last year. The principle is that it reduces the intermittent faults on the low-voltage network. In short, it saves time and money locating and testing for errors on parts of the network that can sometimes be quite remote and lead to bigger problems later down the line. The project delivered such impressive results in the test area that it has been rolled out not only across more of ENW’s network but the other DNOs are installing them too.

While we’re only in the second year of projects for LCNF, Hannah Nixon, Senior Partner for Distribution at Ofgem said, “It is early days, but we’re clearly seeing excellent progress. This conference is crucial to maximise the potential of the fund and puts the emphasis on dissemination of the learning”. It is dissemination like the conference that leads to shared success, shared improvement and collective win for customers across the country.

Sandy Sheard, who leads the Future Electricity Networks team at DECC closed the conference saying the Fund is a “fantastic catalyst for development” and that it was “absolutely clear that pilot and demonstration projects like these are playing a critical role”. Accolades like this are possible because those working on the projects treat innovation as business as usual. They recognise the need for the learning to be shared and have the foresight to see the potential benefits.

Looking ahead, further dissemination will be necessary, especially to scale up this innovation for widespread benefit. Over the 2 days in Cardiff last week, the question was never put about whether innovation can be business as usual. It was never even doubted.

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