Northern Powergrid

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24 October 2019


24 October 2019


  • Local networks are already system operators, says Northern Powergrid, as regional electricity generation capacity reaches more than 4GW across Yorkshire and the North East.
  • Figure is more than Hinkley Point C intended installed capacity (3.3GW) and almost four times capacity of world’s largest offshore wind farm – Hornsea One (1.2GW).
  • Scale of local power revealed as the company launches its plan to become a Distribution System Operator.

The amount of energy generation connected directly to the local power grid across the North of England has quadrupled in just 10 years, according to Northern Powergrid, the electricity distribution network operator.

More than four gigawatts (4GW) of wind, solar and other power is now directly connected to the operator’s network – up from just 1GW in 2009. That is more than the capacity of the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power station (3.3GW – currently under construction) and almost four times the capacity of the world’s largest offshore wind farm – Hornsea One (1.2GW) located off the east coast of England.

The scale of growth in local generation, especially those from low carbon sources, is unprecedented and means distribution network operators (DNOs) like Northern Powergrid are taking on much greater responsibility to manage the local electricity system and ensure safe and reliable power to households and businesses. This was previously only the preserve of National Grid, the UK’s national electricity system operator. However, despite good progress by the energy industry and policymakers, the regulatory framework to allow DNOs to unleash their potential as local system operators remains unclear.

Northern Powergrid is calling on the government and energy regulator Ofgem to provide extra clarity on the functions of distribution system operation that it will license the network operators to deliver. The company has set out a number of questions that Ofgem and the energy industry need to address as part of its newly published plan to become a Distribution System Operator – DSO v1.1.

Patrick Erwin, Policy and Markets Director at Northern Powergrid, said: “With a climate emergency declared by the UK Government and parliament and many of the local authorities we serve, we need more radical change to eliminate net carbon emissions and create a clean and sustainable society for our children and grandchildren. We’re already adapting our network to enable a safe, reliable and affordable carbon-free energy system for our eight million customers. What we need is industry-wide clarity on the future role of our energy networks to help achieve net zero emissions before 2050; that would allow us to act at pace and the confidence to invest.”

Dramatically decarbonising the electricity system while electrifying everything from cars to heating, is part of the solution to achieve substantial progress towards net-zero by 2050 – the legally-binding target set by the government earlier this year. Electricity networks, such as Northern Powergrid, are critical to managing this transition as well as maintaining a safe and reliable service for consumers.

Network operators have already invested significantly to be able to handle increasing amounts of electricity from wind farms, solar panels and other local forms of generation and the rapid growth of electric vehicles.  Greater clarity on how the networks will be expected to operate in future will support networks to rapidly evolve into DSOs, actively managing their networks to underpin the rapid transition to carbon-free electricity, transport and heat.

Northern Powergrid’s DSO v1.1 plan can be found and downloaded here. The plan outlines the innovative measures the company is already taking to transition to a DSO. It has been developed through extensive consultation with Northern Powergrid’s customers and stakeholders. Based on the company’s emerging thinking (DSO v1.0), published in December 2018, it will directly inform Northern Powergrid’s next long-term business plan for the RIIO-ED2 regulatory price control period, between 2023-28.

Northern Powergrid will continue to refine its DSO plan through a comprehensive engagement programme, including its second annual Stakeholder Summit, to be held on 29 November 2019. Register here.

Later in 2019, Northern Powergrid will publish its Distribution Future Energy Scenarios to 2050, setting out potential scenarios for how future electricity demand and generation could develop over the next 30 years, and its strategy for securing a socially inclusive energy system transition for everyone in its region.