Western Power Distribution outlines plans to expand DSO services

WPD aims to make it easier for third parties to deliver flexibility services, and to promote increased competition and deliver additional network capacity to connect greater volumes of renewable distributed generation (including wind and solar), energy storage solutions, and other low carbon technologies like heat pumps and electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.

WPD’s latest DSO strategy details its approach to developing DSO services independent of its core business as a Distribution Network Operator (DNO), as well as outlining plans to use enhanced domestic flexibility markets and services to unlock increased network capacity across its licence areas in the Midlands, South West and South Wales.

The delivery of WPD’s Digitalisation Action Plan is also helping third party energy innovators to develop new data-led solutions to the UK’s network flexibility challenges, demonstrated through the launch of the Connected Data Portal earlier this year.

With increased data transparency, WPD is empowering the next generation of innovators to develop applications that will enable increased efficiency and smarter solutions for domestic electricity customers.

WPD’s focus on facilitating neutral markets will help to foster more dynamic and competitive flexibility services, rewarding innovative companies for increased flexibility, while incentivising energy consumers to make smarter, low energy choices.

This will create a ‘win-win’ outcome by accelerating the UK’s transition towards net zero, while keeping household electricity bills down by driving competition and efficiency.

WPD is already leading the industry in developing DSO services through the Flexible Power brand – a product initially created and developed by WPD. Now adopted by five DNOs, this national flexibility market platform brings together network operators with flexibility service providers.

By rewarding customers who moderate their energy consumption at peak times, expensive but rarely used network reinforcement can be avoided.

With hundreds of electricity consumers now participating in the Flexible Power brand, more than 450MW of flexibility has been unlocked, enabling the connection of renewable generators and the charging of thousands of EVs in zones that serve nearly two million customers.

WPD is continuing to develop and test new services. The ground-breaking Network Innovation Allowance FutureFlex and Intraflex projects are demonstrating the potential for widespread integration of domestic flexibility and nearer real time trading of services.

WPD’s updated approach to DSO services reflects a broader shift in the UK electricity system, from a passive arrangement based on carbon-emitting baseload generation, towards a more diverse system incorporating more renewable distributed generation and storage.

In line with Ofgem guidance, WPD’s updated DSO strategy fosters a new layer of innovative energy service businesses, working in partnership with DNOs to provide greater flexibility through the development of an increasingly smart and flexible network.

By incorporating additional DSO services delivering enhanced flexibility, WPD will maximise utilisation of existing infrastructure, allowing more low carbon technologies to be connected at a lower cost.

Paul Jewell, WPD system development manager, said: “Our updated DSO strategy empowers energy innovators to develop dynamic new ways to unlock network flexibility.

“By supporting a new generation of energy pioneers, opening up our network data and providing a neutral and trusted market infrastructure through our Flexible Power brand, WPD is supercharging the UK’s journey towards net zero, maximising the utilisation of existing infrastructure through flexibility and active network management, all while keeping household energy bills low.”

The DSO strategy summarises WPD’s progress in developing these services in RIIO-ED1 and how it aims to accelerate this process as part of its RIIO-ED2 Business Plan. This will enable WPD to exceed Ofgem’s baseline objectives in the areas of planning and network development, network operation and market development.

WPD’s DSO strategy is broken down into two workstreams. The first is System Operator Functions, which focuses on the deployment of new systems and solutions to operate and maintain efficient, economic and co-ordinated networks.

To roll this out, WPD will focus on the delivery of solutions using a top-down approach, targeting 132kV, 66kV and 33kV networks as a priority, while incrementally upgrading the rest of the network to meet customer demands.

As part of this workstream, WPD is working on a number of projects to develop analytical tools and provide data in a user-friendly format for flexibility participants.

The second workstream is DSO Enablers, where WPD will deliver activities and functions to support the development of neutral markets and flexibility. For example, this can include the supply of data for a market or aid the connection of low carbon technologies, as well as developing systems for smarter real-time network reconfiguration and optimisation.

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