Data and Digitalisation

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The move to a low-carbon economy will be driven by the development and deployment of new technologies. As we plan our future energy network and our transition to a distributed system operator (DSO), data and digitalisationFocused digital and technology agenda that supports the integration of digital technologies to improve Northern Powergrid’s everyday business activities are central to delivering an efficient, resilient and flexible service for our customers.

New technology is allowing us to digitalise our network and our business faster than ever, and we are embracing digital platforms to optimise a whole systems approach to deliver our future low-carbon energy network. Thanks to our digitalisationFocused digital and technology agenda that supports the integration of digital technologies to improve Northern Powergrid’s everyday business activities approach, we are increasingly able to identify future network needs before they become apparent, fix assets Physical equipment connected to the grid that facilitates the generation and delivery of electricity, e.g. substations, transformers and solar panels before they fault, and target investments to where they will deliver the greatest benefit.

We will start the next business planning period (2023-2028) in a position of strength, with a number of our implemented innovations achieving industry-leading status.

  • AutoDesignOur online low-voltage connection budget estimation tool, allowing customers to generate quick and accurate quotes to support budget estimations for proposed connections: our award-winning, web-based self-service design tool provides real-time, lower-cost access to users who want to connect electric vehicle (EV) chargers.i
  • Foresight: our project uses innovative data analysis to enable fault prediction, allowing us to proactively deploy network technology and automate the restoration of power supplies to customers.ii
  • Activating community engagement (ACE): our world-first trial of a mobile game incentivised households to reduce their energy consumption at times of peak demand.iii

In the current business planning period, we have also:

  • invested £3.6m in our customer relationship management (CRM) systems;
  • transitioned to a digital set of asset Physical equipment connected to the grid that facilitates the generation and delivery of electricity, e.g. substations, transformers and solar panels and network records, updating more than 40 million records about our electricity network equipment;
  • delivered multimillion pound investment in smart meter integration projects;iv and
  • explored new technology solutions such as robotic process automation (RPA) and process mining to drive efficiencies.v

Moving into the next planning period (2023-2028), our strategic focus will be around deploying data and digitalisationFocused digital and technology agenda that supports the integration of digital technologies to improve Northern Powergrid’s everyday business activities to deliver five primary objectives:

  • openness and transparency – enabling innovation and deployment of new markets while delivering 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 at the lowest cost;
  • whole system efficiency – enabling a cost and carbon-optimised whole energy system;
  • service excellence – delivering seamless, efficient services with greater choice and personalisation;
  • cyber security – responding to and reducing cyber threats caused by increased digitalisationFocused digital and technology agenda that supports the integration of digital technologies to improve Northern Powergrid’s everyday business activities; and
  • cost reduction – driving lower cost, more efficient business operations.

Our data and digitalisationFocused digital and technology agenda that supports the integration of digital technologies to improve Northern Powergrid’s everyday business activities approach will enable us to:

  • implement personalised self-serve web technologies;
  • provide high-quality open data Customers may use data to assess network capacity ahead of installing low-carbon technology or assess the forecasts we are making about the increase in heat pumps. Making data available is a key part of how we can support customers in the shift to net zero to enable customers to support quicker and more informed decision making that allows them to become more active participants in an increasingly flexible energy market;vi
  • upgrade our technology and digital tools offering to improve network management, planning and investment decisions;
  • continue to invest in cyber controls to maintain a robust cyber-security posture that can meet the challenges of emerging digital threats;
  • use technology to introduce improved processes to manage our frontline teams, work schedules, materials and equipment;
  • deploy robotics and automation to reduce the cost of low-value, high-volume tasks and improve customer and colleague experience; and
  • enable advanced analytics and real-time visibility of assets Physical equipment connected to the grid that facilitates the generation and delivery of electricity, e.g. substations, transformers and solar panels , customers and actions.

Benefits:

  • a robust and resilient network;
  • a cheaper and more efficient 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 ;
  • empowered customers with greater ability to self-serve;
  • improved customer experience with a more personalised service;
  • increased network management efficiencies;
  • improved colleague efficiency and effectiveness;
  • better-targeted investment decisions; and
  • a future-proofed and agile network that can adapt to rapid changes.

i AutoDesignOur online low-voltage connection budget estimation tool, allowing customers to generate quick and accurate quotes to support budget estimations for proposed connections is a free online tool designed to speed up the connections process. The intuitive system is underpinned by real-world network data to help users identify the best new connections locations. AutoDesignOur online low-voltage connection budget estimation tool, allowing customers to generate quick and accurate quotes to support budget estimations for proposed connections can provide an indicative connection cost in minutes, instead of the usual 10-day turnaround.

ii Foresight is a fault detection programme that spots the telltale signs of network faults before they occur – similar to the way an ECG might show an irregular heartbeat before a cardiac arrest. The £4m innovation project is helping Northern Powergrid engineers to identify and pinpoint the source of network faults to proactively repair them before power supply is disrupted.

iii Activating community engagement (ACE) is our award-winning innovation project delivered in partnership with Newcastle University and start-up SME GenGame. The project was the first-ever trial to show how mobile gaming could incentivise households to reduce their electricity consumption at times of high demand. ACE offers a fun solution to help manage demand side response for residential customers and has provided valuable insight about how we can incentivise consumer behaviour change at a time when electricity use is increasing as electric vehicles and heat pumps become mainstream, increasing demand on the network. The game saw more than 2,000 customers compete for cash prizes by turning off washing machines, televisions, lights and other home devices at periods of high demand. More info: https://www.northernpowergrid.com/ACE

iv An electronic device that records consumption of electric energy and communicates the information for the purpose of system monitoring and billing.

v Robotic process automation is a form of business process automation that uses software robots, or artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learningThe ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to safely perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings to run digital processes.

vi FlexibilityFlexibility is the ability to increase or decrease the production and / or consumption of energy at a given or requested time in order to support the wider electricity network and optimise capacity available for customers. We are seeking to adopt flexibility-first strategies, where flexibility solutions are the preferred means of balancing additional demand on our network is critical to our future 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 energy system. As a business we are endeavouring to identify areas where flexibilityFlexibility is the ability to increase or decrease the production and / or consumption of energy at a given or requested time in order to support the wider electricity network and optimise capacity available for customers. We are seeking to adopt flexibility-first strategies, where flexibility solutions are the preferred means of balancing additional demand on our network can benefit the transition in the following areas:

- containing costs associated with network investment;

- creating faster connections and installations;

- minimising network disruption; and

- deepening our understanding of flexibilityFlexibility is the ability to increase or decrease the production and / or consumption of energy at a given or requested time in order to support the wider electricity network and optimise capacity available for customers. We are seeking to adopt flexibility-first strategies, where flexibility solutions are the preferred means of balancing additional demand on our network and how best to deploy it.

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