UK’s Northern Powergrid announces £234.5m grid digitalisation plan

UK’s Northern Powergrid has announced a five-year grid digitalisation and decarbonisation plan which will help the company to speed up its transition to the distribution network operator.

The £234.5 million ($321.5 million) 2023-2026 Digitalisation Strategy and Actions Plan will help the energy company to enhance its grid data acquisition, management, and utilisation as well as support the decarbonisation of the energy network. In addition to increasing investments in data and digitalisation, Northern Powergrid will also increase its annual funding of decarbonisation by £10 million ($13.7 million).

Paul Fitton, Northern Powergrid’s Head of Information Systems, said: “We will significantly expand our use of data for planning and operation of network and customer assets.  It will become the key to unlocking new capabilities that we can deploy as we drive towards net zero. Across our business, the investment in data and digitalisation will modernise the way that we operate, driving down costs and setting the groundwork for a smarter system to benefit all of our customers.”

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From the £29.5 million ($40.4 million) to be invested in advanced data and network management, up to £90.2 million ($123.6 million) in savings is anticipated. Of the £29.5 million, up to £6.6 million ($9 million) will be directed to advanced grid and data analytics to help Northern Powergrid to:

  • Save £42.5 million ($58.2 million) using Thor hammer data analysis to better target replacement of wooden poles.
  • Save £6 million ($8.2 million) by analysing and replacing worst-performing low voltage cables.
  • Save £8.1 million ($11.1 million) by targeting high-risk electricity cut-outs.

The investment and grid modernisation plan will enable Northern Powergrid to move closer to its target of creating 1,000 new jobs within its North East, Yorkshire, and northern Lincolnshire service territories. The jobs will enable the DNO to improve its customer services through enhanced management of the grid and the provision of digital services that will enable:

  • Customers to better access critical information and be empowered to take connections and other network decisions into their own hands. Artificial intelligence capabilities will be used to achieve this.
  • The resilience of grid against cyber attacks will be improved. More robust and and stronger detection and response technologies will be deployed.
  • Energy demand to be matched in real-time with energy available. Data-driven, accurate forecasting about electric vehicle (EVs) and heat pump uptake will be implemented to prepare the network for decarbonisation.

Paul Fitton added: “We are building our rich bank of knowledge and information and helping stakeholders’ access this more easily. It is essential that we become a trusted source of data for local businesses, planners and decision-makers to help them make more informed decisions that will benefit communities and support regional decarbonisation.”

Northern Powergrid hosted 25 engagement events to gather data regarding what consumers and other stakeholders want in developing the strategy.