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DSO Insights

27/03/2024

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Our Head of Network Intelligence & DSO Development, Kirsty Scott, delves into our DSO transition.

A Distribution Network Operator (DNO) does not just decide to be a Distribution System Operator (DSO), it is a long-term journey which will help realise Net Zero ambitions and enable our Just Transition Strategy – ensuring that no one is left behind in the energy transition.

DSOBlogImageHistorically, a DNO is responsible for keeping the lights on. It is their responsibility to ensure that the network is sufficiently large and inherently safe, and that the infrastructure is in place to distribute electricity. However, the way that we use energy is changing as low carbon technology is adopted in the transition to Net Zero. This means the electricity system needs to be managed in a much more dynamic way.

Digital capabilities are also developing rapidly, creating a wealth of new data and information. Every home and small business that has a meter is being offered the opportunity to install a smart meter. Over time, smart meters will provide significantly more information about how energy is being consumed; couple this with new and more dynamic technology and the way that the distribution system will function will change radically.

Our transition to becoming a DSO will be driven by the needs of our stakeholders, will deliver benefits for the communities we serve, and ensure value for our customers. It is essential that we have a robust strategy and that we can deliver the network developments required to unlock the benefits of the Net Zero transition.

Achieving the DSO transition cannot be done alone

DSOBlogImageCollaboration, sharing ambitions and ideas, will be the key to realising a Just Transition to Net Zero. We are committed to creating opportunities for collaboration through our DSO conferences, our upcoming webinars, and the creation of our new DSO webpage, where we share information about our plans and our teams, enabling you to contact us and access resources to support your needs.

At the heart of our DSO organisation are the roles of Planning & Network Development, Network Operation and Market Development, supported by the fourth and fundamental role of Data and Information. We have now organised ourselves to meet the challenge ahead and to deliver a personalised service to stakeholders. You can read more about what our teams are delivering, and the benefits for the communities we serve, below.

DSO supporting accelerated customer connections

Access to our network enables communities to decarbonise, and we are committed to enabling quicker access for all. We recently supported reform of energy storage connections rules across the wider industry, establishing consistent access rights and improving the utilisation of network capacity – ultimately enabling us to deliver quicker connections. We have also successfully demonstrated the use of more flexible arrangements for wind farms, enabling higher utilisation of our network. These activities remove blockers to decarbonisation and enable our communities to realise their ambitions quicker.

Working with local authorities, developing local and whole system solutions

DSOBlogImageKnowledge about our network can help unlock benefits for others, and our dedicated teams are working with Local Authorities to develop their plans, recently supporting Local authorities across Scotland and Wales in developing Local Heat and Energy Efficiency Strategy (LHEES) and Local Area Energy Plans (LAEPs), and we have now commenced engagement with Local Authorities in England.  This work also enabled us to support Local Authorities in identifying the optimal location for 1,400 public EV charging and heat electrification sites.

We use insights from local authorities when updating our Distribution Future Energy Scenarios (DFES), which set out the future needs of our network, ensuring that the ambitions of the communities we serve are represented and enabled.

Creating opportunities and removing barriers in the flexibility market

Since publishing our DSO Ambition in 2016, we have led the way in developing the market for flexibility services, creating opportunities for flexibility service providers. We have listened to feedback from providers, and recently established shorter-term market tenders which are more aligned with their needs and created a new market using flexibility to support network outages. We worked with our flexibility market providers to develop a platform for them, which makes the process easy for them to participate. Using this platform, in the last twelve months we have tendered for 570MW of flexibility, and successfully contracted with 5 providers to deliver 29MW. We now have 550MW of flexibility services contracted between 2023-28, which will save our customers between £36-145m through deferred reinforcement.  

Demonstrating transparency in our decision-making

Our Decision-making framework transparently explains the process we follow to decide when and where to rely on flexibility services, providing customers and stakeholders confidence that we are using cost effective interventions to address network constraints, and providing flexibility market participants confidence that we are a neutral market facilitator. It sets out how we work with our Independent Net Zero Advisory Council, how we established our new organisation, and how we use data driven tools to assess solutions and identify the best value intervention.

And finally, providing our customers and stakeholders access to useful data and information

DSOBlogImageWe work closely with stakeholders to share data which is useful, easy to access, and aligned with their needs. We seek opportunities to improve what we do, recently updating our Data and Digitalisation site to provide to our documents and opportunities to engage with our teams, making it easy for stakeholders to access our Open Data Portal - a central, secure repository for network planning information, operational data, and market insights.

We seek and welcome feedback from stakeholders on how we can improve what we are delivering, including using surveys to understand more about your needs, and our recent “Open Data” survey enabled us to improve our Data Sharing services in areas which matter most to our stakeholders. 

If you would like to know more about future surveys, or tell us what you think, please get in touch at stakeholderengagement@spenergynetworks.co.uk.

 

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