Western Power Distribution is to explore the benefits of collaboration between local authorities and network companies through its new Energy Planning Integrated with Councils (EPIC) project.
The £540,000 Network Innovation Allowance funded project will look to develop a tool that allows the investment plans for energy networks and local authorities to be jointly analysed and potential synergies identified.
While current Distribution Future Energy Scenarios (DFES) are created with input from local authorities, they are based on national scenarios and do not fully adopt or incorporate local authority's longer term strategic plans, explained WPD.
EPIC will look to develop a standardised process and tool for local authorities to create more accurate energy plans, capable of taking into account uptake of technologies like electric vehicles, small scale renewable generation and the decarbonisation of heat.
The project will explore whether they can streamline and standardise local processes, said project lead and low carbon and innovation engineer at WPD, Jenny Woodruff, and “hopefully lead to the greater use of local authority data in utility company investment plans and allow networks to take a more strategic view for future investment plans".
“Over the coming decades we are going to see growing demand on the energy networks as we experience a significant increase in the installation of low-carbon technologies and their use by customers. To match this demand, millions will need to be invested across energy networks as well as wider investments from local authorities and utility companies. Creating a coordinated process will help to deliver cost efficiencies as well as ensuring we have all the pieces of the puzzle in place when the demand comes.”
EPIC is bringing together WPD, gas company Wales & West Utilities, local authorities in the south west, Power Systems Consultants (PSC), energy consultants Regen and EA Technology to develop the tool, which will be trialled across the South West of England over the 20 month period of the project.
Local authorities will provide expertise during the planning process, while Regen will lead on determining how the different processes can be aligned. Having agreed on a future energy scenario, modelling will then be used to show the impact on distribution network operators, and the investments assessed to optimisie the potential benefits for all.
PSC will provide an automated high voltage network assessment, and EA Technology will adapt its Network Investment Forecasting Tool to analyse the low voltage networks in the trial areas. It’s hoped that modelling both the high and low voltage networks will most accurately reflect changes at a local neighbourhood level.