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Northern Powergrid unveils terms of DSO transformation, launches customer flexibility plan

Image: Northern Powergrid.

Image: Northern Powergrid.

Distribution network operator (DNO) Northern Powergrid has unveiled a widespread DSO transition plan and launched an expression of interest for customers to provide network flexibility from next winter.

A key tenet of the DSO plan is the opening up of flexibility markets to large businesses in Northern Powergrid’s (NPg) operational area, which will enable supermarkets, factories, large offices and other businesses that either have on-site generation or storage, or can be flexible with their demand, to offer that flexibility to the DSO.

The approach falls under NPg’s phase one customer flexibility plan, the procurement process for which has started with a live expression of interest. Flexibility assets of at least 100kW in capacity are being sought to deliver as much as 12.5MW of flexibility, spread across nine areas, in time for the next winter period.

Those nine areas include major cities in the region, including Sheffield, Hull, Newcastle and York, as well as Bridlington, Dewsbury, Goole, Huddersfield and Scunthorpe.

NPg said the capacity would be an “essential building block” in the company’s wider DSO transition, and the company is currently placing a particular interest in businesses or groups of customers capable of flexing their generation when needed, citing small-scale peaking plant or co-located renewables-plus-storage as particular examples.

Jim Cardwell, head of policy development at Northern Powergrid, said: “With this plan, we are directly responding to the societal challenges of climate change, resource conservation and increased raw material costs. New technology means we can both empower our customers to play a more active role in network management, and ensure that the cost saving is shared fairly.”

The flexibility is to be procured using Piclo’s Flex platform, which Northern Powergrid signed up to in September last year, and NPg is encouraging asset owners and/or operators to register with the dashboard.

A transformational transition

Alongside the customer flexibility plan NPg published a DSO v1.0 document, delving into some of the wider thinking behind its transition to a distribution system operator, a change the DNO described as “transformational” for the business.

Given the wider adoption of distributed generation, the need to decarbonise and emergence of new technologies such as electric vehicles and energy storage, NPg said there was a need to enable that change via widespread flexibility instead of costly network upgrades.

The customer flexibility plan forms just one component of NPg’s strategy, and will be complemented by the adoption of innovative technologies such as vehicle-to-grid charging, integrated energy storage, the use of heating systems to balance power demand and has storage as a form of balancing.

Patrick Erwin, policy and markets director at NPg, said the DSO v1.0 document establishes a roadmap out to 2030. “We will use new technology and data to develop sophisticated ways to manage and support the energy system, we will pioneer new commercial models and markets to source flexibility, and we will work with other electricity networks and government to ensure the regulatory framework protects the public by assigning clear roles and responsibilities and preserving clear accountability for delivering a safe and secure service,” he said.

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