Asset Resilience

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A resilient asset base is the foundation on which all of our services are built. Maintaining and renewing our existing assets Physical equipment connected to the grid that facilitates the generation and delivery of electricity, e.g. substations, transformers and solar panels is our single largest expense and doing so is fundamental to delivering a consistent and reliable energy supply for our customers.

Our decisions on when and how we invest have a significant material impact on the service we provide. Conversations with customers, stakeholders People and groups with an interest in our operations as the region’s electricity distribution network operator. This includes customers, local authorities and installers of low carbon technology and key organisations have identified that they want us to consider future generations and long-term network needs when making investment decisions. Our approach to asset resilience is grounded in this engagement to best serve both current and future customers.

We are on track to deliver our business commitments from the current period, having invested £1.3bn and added 266MV of capacity by 2023. As we enter our next business plan period (2023-2028), the age of our existing asset base will play a major role in our risk profile, as a significant proportion of our assets Physical equipment connected to the grid that facilitates the generation and delivery of electricity, e.g. substations, transformers and solar panels were installed in the 1950s and 1960s.

Our approach to future investment will seek to deliver two-for-one outcomes wherever possible. This means installing equipment that protects and improves resilience while supporting our plans to support decarbonisationThe reduction, and ultimately elimination, of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In relation to electricity this means the reduction of emissions caused by the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and the provision of entirely carbon-free electricity to homes and businesses. Decarbonisation of the whole energy system includes removing emissions from transport and heat, which will be powered by alternative low-carbon methods and create a greener energy network for the future. We will use data and analytics to inform our decisions so that we make the right decisions at the right time to protect our network for current and future generations.

Customers will see the following outcomes:

  • an efficient long-term transition to net zero Achieving a balance between greenhouse gas emissions being produced (including carbon dioxide) and greenhouse gas emissions being taken out of the atmosphere (e.g. by planting more trees) so that, overall, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is no longer increasing ; and
  • improved network health through efficient decision making and innovation.

Actions we will take to achieve these outcomes include:

  • prioritising asset replacement that will deliver capacity increases and support the transition to net zero Achieving a balance between greenhouse gas emissions being produced (including carbon dioxide) and greenhouse gas emissions being taken out of the atmosphere (e.g. by planting more trees) so that, overall, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is no longer increasing ;
  • enhancing business processes and analysis tools to better identify load growth and its impact on the condition of our equipment;
  • replacing high-risk outdoor substations with indoor substations;
  • using ‘Thor Hammer’ technology to support foot patrols to better target the ageing wood poles and assess their condition in replacement programmes;i
  • implementing online dissolved gas analysis (DGA) technology on power transformersAn asset connected to our network that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another to identify current and future issues;ii
  • identifying current and future problems with switchgearEquipment that controls other assets on our network, protecting them while in operation and used to power down assets for maintenance or repair by undertaking ‘finger-print’ analysis;iii
  • undertaking partial discharge mapping for high voltage (HV) and extra high voltage (EHV) circuits on underground cables;iv
  • using smart meter data to identify customers with a high load and increased risk of overloaded cut-outs;
  • using drone technology instead of helicopters to capture imagery for routine assessment;
  • investigating artificial intelligence and machine learning to triage captured drone imagery; and
  • investigating alternative technologies and materials for substation construction to align with modern best practice.

Benefits:

  • improved network health through efficient decision making and innovation;
  • quicker and cheaper decarbonisationThe reduction, and ultimately elimination, of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In relation to electricity this means the reduction of emissions caused by the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity and the provision of entirely carbon-free electricity to homes and businesses. Decarbonisation of the whole energy system includes removing emissions from transport and heat, which will be powered by alternative low-carbon methods and route to net zero Achieving a balance between greenhouse gas emissions being produced (including carbon dioxide) and greenhouse gas emissions being taken out of the atmosphere (e.g. by planting more trees) so that, overall, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is no longer increasing ;
  • fewer disruptions for customers;
  • increased efficiency across the network;
  • lower asset risk and increased reliability;
  • improved data quality and analysis; and
  • better-informed long-term strategic investment and reduced likelihood of unnecessary investment.

i Technology that assesses the stability of electricity poles by hitting them with a hammer and measuring the resulting vibrations.

ii DGA is one of the most powerful tools asset managers have to determine the health of their transformers. It is a cost-effective approach that can be used to detect problems in the early stages and manage them as the condition evolves.

iii Installation of sensors that provide graph analysis of how the switchgearEquipment that controls other assets on our network, protecting them while in operation and used to power down assets for maintenance or repair equipment is performing and how it interacts with the wider network to help identify any remedial action that may be required.

iv Using technologies to check there is no breakdown of insulation around equipment.

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