Leading the way to Net Zero: SPM partnerships and innovation


A blog by Liam O’Sullivan

We’re delighted that the UK is hosting COP26 United Nations Climate Change Conference in November.

This will be the most important global climate change event since the Paris Agreement in 2015 and as a principal partner to COP26, it’s a great opportunity for us to showcase our electricity networks and the great work we are doing to tackle climate change and help deliver Net Zero.

At SP Energy Networks we have one of the biggest network operator innovation portfolios in the UK, with a wide range of projects demonstrating our commitment to the decarbonisation of transport, heat, energy and industry.

We are collaborating with and supporting local and regional government on a range of exciting initiatives in our SP Manweb distribution area which covers North Wales, Merseyside, Cheshire and North Shropshire.

One of the most high profile initiatives we are involved in is Net Zero North West Cluster Plan, a partnership between government and industry to create the UK’s first Low Carbon Industrial Cluster by 2030, and a Net Zero Cluster by 2040. We are expecting Net Zero North West to deliver 10m tonnes of carbon emission savings a year by 2030 and 40m tonnes a year by 2040. Our collaborators on this include Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as some key industrial partners in the area such as Essar Oil, Encirc Glass, INOVYN and CS Fertilisers UK. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these businesses, these make up the highly industrial area around Ellesmere Port and Runcorn.

We are also providing a new connection to accommodate Protos – a £1bn, 700 acre development which is part of Net Zero North West. Protos will create 3,000 new jobs in the area, reduce the cost of clean energy and deliver a new decarbonised energy system.

We are working with the Welsh Government on the Ynys Mon Hydrogen Island project in North Wales. This involves using the excess electricity generated there to create hydrogen to refuel vehicles disembarking from the ferries there, rather than trying to put that electricity back on to the grid.

In our last COP26 video blog my colleague Guy Jefferson mentioned Charge, which is one of our flagship projects focused on accelerating investment in and deployment of public EV chargers. A key element of Charge is the creation of an online tool to help businesses and local authorities identify optimum locations to connect EV chargepoints.

We’re delighted to be working with organisations which share our ambition and drive to work together to deliver Net Zero.

One of the big focus areas for us is becoming smarter in the way we manage our network, and there are a number of projects we are working on to bring us closer to that goal.

Another great example of our collaborative approach to innovation is the Network Visibility Project, where we have supported EA Technology and Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership. Data from around 600 substations on our network is being monitored and shared publicly to increase visibility of the energy capacity and usage across our network. This will allow network operators and other potential connection customers to identify the most suitable locations.

Our Fault Level Management project is developing the world’s first real-time fault level measurement device and recent testing carried out on this has exceeded our expectations in terms of performance. This technology will enable us to safely connect higher volumes of renewable energy at a lower cost, while also spending less on upgrading our network infrastructure.

With flexibility now considered an integral part of the energy mix, we are playing a key role in various innovations projects to develop more flexibility on our network with industrial, commercial and residential partners.

Our Angle-DC project is trialling a smart and flexible reinforcement method on a section of our network between between Anglesey and North Wales. This project is close to being commissioned and the trial phase commencing.

Alongside these activities, we’re also driving the sustainable future we know we need post-pandemic, via the £27.8m of Ofgem Green Recovery funding we were delighted to have recently been awarded. Through this new funding mechanism, we will be taking forward 23 projects in England and Wales that will demonstrate the importance of accelerating investment in the decarbonisation of transport and heat.

The wide range of projects we are leading on and collaborating on with partners in government and industry are positioning us firmly as a leader in the journey to Net Zero.

We proud to be playing our part in tackling climate change and will continue to highlight the great work we are doing in the lead up to COP26.

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