Major utility providers brought together for the first time at DCBC event

Date: 
28 Oct 2016
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On Thursday 6th October, Devon and Cornwall Business Council held their third full council meeting of the year considering “The Future of Utilities: Market Developments and Infrastructure”, focusing on how fundamentally important Gas, Electricity and Water is to society and to the economy and what the strategies are, on providing such utilities in the longer term.

The event was held at Roadford Lake in Devon and event attendance totalled 93 delegates.

The agenda consisted of speeches from the following experts in the water, gas and electricity sectors about the challenges they and their industries face in the years to come and, importantly, how they are planning to overcome them.

  • Monica Read (Business Services & Sustainability Director, South West Water), who focused on how South West Water are investing in the wider-regional economy, in traditional infrastructure, but also innovative solutions to some difficult challenges. Monica also provided an update on market reforms and associated opportunities.

  • Janet Mather (Supply & Demand Manager, National Grid) set the national scene in a global context and highlighted the work that National Grid do in order to develop possible scenarios, which in turn will help guide industry over the long-term.

  • Steven Edwards (Director of Regulation and Commercial, Wales & West Utilities) outlined the work that Wales and West are doing to plan and deliver a sustainable gas network for the long-term. Gas will play a key role in the nations’ aspiration to de-carbonise, and driving innovation into the sector is crucial.

  • Alison Sleightholm (Regulatory & Government Affairs Manager, Western Power Distribution) gave an update on how aspects of the grid, that Western Power Distribution manages, has and will continue to be transformed, moving towards becoming a Distribution System Operator. The audience also heard about the challenges associated with electricity flowing in two directions on the grid and the innovations that are helping to provide solutions to this challenge.

The morning event closed with a panel discussion from the key speakers, also including Cheryl Hiles (Director, Regen SW) who is responsible for Regen SW’s overall delivery and future direction, as well providing policy and strategy guidance to clients including businesses, local authorities and government.

Key points raised included:

  • Many agreed that this was the first event bringing all the major utility providers together, which enabled cross sector understanding and development opportunities.

  • There is a general requirement for better dialogue between Local Authorities / Local Enterprise Partnerships and the utility providers to ensure that local plans are developed with utilities provision in mind.

  • Changes made by Ofgem to the Common Distribution Charging Methodology (CDCM) could lead to higher electricity charges for certain commercial consumers.

  • The ability for WPD to make ‘strategic investments’ in the grid, investing in infrastructure improvements where there are no clear customers, is currently limited by Ofgem. This makes unlocking new development and employment sites difficult, due to the cost burden of connections or upgrades on individual customers. WPD have engaged with RegenSW to conduct a strategic review of future demand, which may help to make the case for this kind of investment going forward. More information is available here: https://www.westernpower.co.uk/About-us/Our-Business/Our-network/Strategic-network-investment.aspx

  • Ofgem are developing a ‘Roadmap to a smart energy system’, which will be released soon. This will be a key document when it comes to lobbying for infrastructure investment.

In the afternoon a smaller group of delegates from our local authorities joined DCBC and the Heart of the South West LEP in debating topics of interest particularly related to security of future energy supply and demand to assist regional economic growth and inward investment.

 

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