Elaine Meskhi: Why online connections tools will be indispensable in the green recovery
28 August 2020
If you’re considering making a new connection to the GB electricity network, you will probably need a budget estimate from your Distribution Network Operator (DNO). Ofgem, the gas and electricity market regulator in Great Britain, sets strict conditions on DNO response times to these enquiries generally requiring an estimate to be provided within 10 days.
Since the launch of the game-changing AutoDesign self-serve software tool, however, Northern Powergrid’s customers have been able to get a budget estimate within minutes.
Pareto’s principle is alive in connections – around 80% of budget estimates are not progressed to firm quotes. Developing software tools for the connections process involves codifying the knowledge and experience of engineers into logic and algorithms. The software can then free up the time spent by engineers on routine, repetitive tasks so they can concentrate on the more complex problems where their specialist knowledge is really needed.
The demands on electricity distribution networks and the people that run them are changing rapidly. Not only from the increasing numbers of Low Carbon Technologies being connected but also from the changes in the regulatory space. RIIO-ED2, the Significant Code Review and the PAS 1878 are a few of the upcoming UK regulatory changes with similar shifts occurring across the world. The speed and manner in which DNOs respond to all these changes directly affect the cost and efficacy of our endeavours to electrify the transport and heat sectors.
The transport and heat sectors represent two of the biggest consumers of energy, and electrification is necessary to move away from environmentally damaging fossil fuels to greener energy sources. Besides the environmental damage from fossil fuels, globally, seven million premature deaths annually are linked to air pollution and studies also show that COVID-19 fatality rates are significantly higher among those with even slightly increased exposure to particulates. In the lockdown we all experienced cleaner air and had a taste of what a future with zero-emission vehicles will be like. As we come out of lockdown it is imperative that stimulation of the economy is done in harmony with, rather than at the expense of, environmental and public health considerations.
We must accelerate our uptake of low and zero emission technologies by accelerating their connection to the electricity networks. The resulting boom in enquires from changing energy vectors makes is essential that we approach the task strategically with the help of data science, modelling and software engineering.
Innovative connections tools can and will provide transparency and accessibility to data and data models so that a wide range of stakeholders can benefit from them. The ConnectMore tool being developed for the Charge project, for example, will create a common understanding of the electricity network capacity and electric vehicle energy demand. We want to make travel in EVs more accessible to the population and cleaner air an attainable reality. ConnectMore heatmaps will therefore highlight the sweet spots where demand for chargers is high and electricity network capacity is good, facilitating the deployment of the right public EV charging infrastructure, in the right place at the right time.
To find out more go to www.chargeproject.co.uk