Continuing our series looking at the roles of women in the energy networks, Laura Dunn, SP Energy Networks Senior Delivery Engineer, explains what drew her to the sector and the opportunities she's found.
What’s your current role at SP Energy Networks and what does your job involve?
I am a Senior Delivery Engineer within the Distribution System Operator (DSO) team at SP Energy Networks, this involves working to prepare the network for the future, particularly on projects that facilitate the decarbonisation of heat and transport. I work closely with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders to make sure our strategy for the future of the network aligns with their ambitions.
Most of my time is spent helping to lead Project PACE, a trial of a DNO-led approach to the site selection and roll-out of public EV charging infrastructure across 2 of Scotland’s largest local authorities. The project is delivering up to 180 EV chargers across more than 40 hubs in just one year. Our innovative site selection study, funded by the SP Energy Networks Green Economy Fund, has delivered connections cost savings of £1.3 - £2.6m across the selected charging hubs and has already saved over 270 tonnes of CO2 being emitted to the atmosphere.
We also worked with the Green Economy Fund to provide 13 electric vehicles to community transport groups across Lanarkshire.
What first interested you in being part of the energy industry and how did you join?
Before joining SP Energy Networks, I was a Chemical Engineer in the Oil & Gas sector for 10 years. I worked on many large scale infrastructure projects, many with an emphasis on reducing carbon emissions.
Moving to the energy sector to help facilitate the move to clean, green electricity seemed like a logical next step to me (although I’m not aware of many others who have made a similar career move!) I finally made the leap when I spotted a great opportunity to use my experience in developing project proposals and feasibility studies for the innovation arm of SP Energy Networks. I’m pleased I made the move and I have never looked back.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
As an engineer, I get satisfaction from seeing projects I’ve worked on come to fruition. The most rewarding part of my current job is definitely seeing our Project PACE EV charging hubs being built in real life and being used by customers to charge their EVs. Since August 2020, the PACE EV chargers have been used over 25,000 times, providing over 445MWh of power to EVs – that’s enough to drive an EV over 1.5 million miles. It’s also great to see our electric community transport vehicles being delivered and providing real benefits to our local communities and helping to deliver a just transition to a cleaner, greener future for all.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your job?
Delivering a project like PACE involves working with multiple teams within SP Energy Networks and external stakeholders including Transport Scotland, Local Authorities and contractors. The most challenging part of my job is coordinating all the different teams, making sure everyone has the information they need and completes their piece of the puzzle in time to meet the project timescales.
How do you bring your previous experience from outside the sector to your current role?
I honed my skills early in my career as a Chemical Engineer in Oil & Gas working as part of a multidisciplinary team to deliver complex projects with tight deadlines. I worked on all stages of project delivery from proposals and feasibility studies right through to construction and commissioning. My experience in project delivery has definitely come in handy on Project PACE.
Now that COVID restrictions are being eased, what are you looking forward to post-pandemic?
Work wise, when the COVID restrictions are lifted, I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and colleagues in person and visiting some of the Project PACE charging hubs. Outside work, I’m looking forward to jetting off to the sunshine on holiday!
Notes to editor
Previous energy networks profiles:
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the companies which operate the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 45,000 people in the UK and Ireland. They are represented by their industry body, Energy Networks Association (that's us).