Western Power Distribution (WPD) has launched a new digitalisation strategy with the aim of delivering a more economic and efficient service as it transitions to net zero.
The distribution network operator (DNO) will use digital technologies and data-innovations to transform how it develops and operates its network across the South West, Midlands and South Wales. This will help the DBO to become more efficient and more flexible, helping the network to decarbonise faster, as well as providing a more responsive customer service and lower energy bills.
Digitalisation forms a key part of WPD’s commitment to supporting the UK’s net zero by 2050 target, it said. The focus at this stage will be on improving data management, increasing network insight and presuming open data. This final piece will help third party innovators to develop dynamic new solutions to challenges facing the energy networks, such as the connection of large amounts of electric vehicles or heat pumps.
Graham Halladay, WPD’s operations director, said that the digitalisation of the energy system was in everyone’s interest, helping to empower customers by providing great insight, making it “key to achieving a modern decarbonised and decentralised energy system".
“To deliver net zero we will have to increasingly make the most of the infrastructure that we already have. Digitalising the network will play a key role in this, driving greater efficiency while creating new opportunities and innovations for our customers.
“To digitalise the business at speed, we are continuing to develop our workforce and skills. We have already increased the number of Telecoms and Control Systems apprentices to ensure we have the right expertise to deliver our ambitions, and we continue to assess our needs to guide investment in the right training and skills to deliver for our customers.”
WPD has identified a number of projects it will undertake over the coming months to develop the foundations for digitalisation. This will include developing robust data governance, an integrated network model and creating a data catalogue of centralised data that can be accessed by various parts of the business.
One of these projects included the first wave of data utilising the Common Information Model, which WPD released in August. This is public access, standardised data that can be used across the network.
Jonathan Berry, DSO digitalisation & data manager at WPD, said the company was committed to delivering “tangible and impactful change” through its digitalisation programme.
“To date, the modernisation of the energy industry has been hindered by a lack of valuable data, but our roadmap sets out our long-term vision and approach to ensure that we capture, manage and share our data to enable a net-zero transition, and continue to deliver excellent customer service, reliability, and value for money.
“As we have seen in other sectors, digitalisation can spur a new era of innovation that bring about unforeseen economic opportunities and societal benefits. Digitalising our electricity networks will undoubtedly result in spill overs into other sectors, benefiting our customers and stakeholders.”
In August, WPD was put up for sale by its American owner PPL Corporation as it switched its focus the US market exclusively.