Project 'Inform' - Northern Powergrid

Energy Systems Catapult partnered with EA Technology, the City of York Council, the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Kensa Contracting to deliver the Alpha Phase of an exciting Strategic Innovation Fund project called ‘Inform’ for Northern Powergrid.

This project was funded by energy network users and consumers through the Strategic Innovation Fund, a programme from the UK’s independent energy regulator Ofgem managed in partnership with Innovate UK.

The project aims to develop a self-serve, online, HV connections tool to be hosted on Northern Powergrid’s website, for use by developers of complex sites. This project builds on an earlier SIF feasibility phase, during which a benefits analysis was performed that revealed that the development of the tool would enable faster connections of Low Carbon Technologies (such as heat pumps) accelerating the transition of complex sites to Net Zero operation.

The Challenge

Decarbonisation of large or complex non-domestic sites is essential to achieve Net Zero. Each of these sites have many options and routes to consider, all of which lead to a different electricity demand profile. It is not currently possible for site owners to quickly obtain the costs and options associated with network connections or upgrades before significant site design assessment has been completed.

Our Approach

Inform will develop an automated connections estimator for larger sites/non-domestic buildings. It will be an optioneering tool for developers, owners, and operators to determine the electricity network capacity and associated upgrading costs as part of their initial scheme development planning.

The proposed estimator will assess capacity required for a decarbonisation solution for a site and generate estimates for distribution network upgrades, as well as indicative costs. Based on modelling of the local distribution network and its current demands, the solution will provide indicative price estimates against upgrading specific attributes at each site. It will allow the site owner to make an early and informed decision on the optimum decarbonisation route and accelerate the decarbonisation of large or complex non-domestic facilities.

The Alpha stage built upon the successful Discovery stage, and involved the development of a proof-of-concept tool that aims to demonstrate key, novel optioneering functionality to give site developers options to reduce connection costs via methods such as energy efficiency and on-site energy storage.

Next Steps

Energy Systems Catapult and its partners delivered this project between October 2023 and April 2024, with the outputs summarised in a final report and public ‘Show and Tell’ presentation. The project concluded with an application for Ofgem SIF Beta Phase funding, which will allow us to roll out the functionality throughout Northern Powergrid’s licence areas and fully automate all processes. Successful Beta Phase projects will start in October 2024.

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