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Evolving distribution systems will be the ‘building framework’ of energy transition

Image: Bloomberg.

Image: Bloomberg.

Future energy distribution systems will be the “framework for the entire building” of the energy transition, ScottishPower chief executive Keith Anderson has said.

Speaking at this week’s BloombergNEF Summit in London, Anderson said that the “next big thing” for the power sector to focus on as the transition takes hold would be the distribution system, arguing that it would play a pivotal role in enabling more decentralised power to be integrated, as well as more significant electrification of other sectors such as heat and transport.

While ScottishPower is perhaps best known as a utility, the Iberdrola-owned company also holds ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN), which owns and operates distribution networks in Scotland and parts of north west England and Wales.

Network operators are currently piecing together business plans for the forthcoming RIIO-2 price control period, a more stringent and tightly-managed successor to the existing RIIO-1 set of price controls. Network companies have been vocal in their criticism of the proposed set of controls, arguing they could hinder innovation at a critical time.

Anderson said there was a “huge amount of work to do in reconfiguring transmission and distribution systems” in the UK, adding that demands placed on those systems were continuing to evolve.

It would be the responsibility of network operators therefore to “keep taking steps forward” and make investments “as quick as we can”, Anderson said, stressing the need for existing technologies to be used rather than network operators waiting for new technologies coming down the pipe.

Speaking candidly about ScottishPower’s own experiences in the evolving energy market, Anderson also said there was a need for energy companies to “keep evolving” and “show some leadership” in the space, pointing towards his own company’s moves into renewables and electric vehicles.

Last year ScottishPower sold off the last of its gas and hydro assets to become a utility entirely powered by renewables, a move which it then followed up with a £2 billion investment programme targeting new renewables capacity, battery storage and electric vehicle infrastructure.

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