Is DSO transformation and new tech enough for environment?

Despite planned changes to existing Distribution Network Operators’ (DNO) status, and new tech from National Grid to calculate carbon emissions, is it too little to combat climate change?  

The recent Utility Week Live conference certainly didn’t shy away from the difficult topics. 

With a keynote theme of ‘Disruption’ – focusing on new technologies and the use of Big Data – the speakers had plenty to say on the subject.  

One of them, Catherine Mitchell – Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Exeter – was also forthright in her views on the transformation of DNOs to a DSO model.  According to Utility Week’s own report,  she claimed during the conference the transformation was “not sufficient” to deal with increasing challenges of climate change. 

Her view was that the current plans of the DNOs, such as those of UK Power Networks reported in last month’s Fundamentally Speaking, do not go far enough in their ambition. She claimed they should become facilitators and co-ordinators of local energy markets to balance the energy system at grid supply level, rather than just purchasers of flexible services.  This would become a Distribution Service Provider (DSP) Model.  She also called for reformation of the RIIO framework to help speed energy transformation. 

Carbon intensity

Her comments, according to the report, were underpinned by the need for network operators not only to drive power grid decarbonisation, but also ensure greater responsiveness to developments in new technologies.

Certainly, National Grid is doing its share in helping to pursue both agenda items.  Having launched its Carbon Intensity website in September last year, it has now announced a new tool within the site that offers a 48-hour forecast of the carbon intensity of UK power generation. 

The latest innovations have been developed in conjunction with the Environmental Defence Fund Europe and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).  Although consumer focused, by providing domestic-specific data forecasting when electricity will be ‘greener’ at different times of the day, the technology will also provide valuable insights for energy generators and distributors.  In particular, longer-term analysis could provide regional data on demand during periods when energy supply is predominantly delivered from renewable sources and where improvements could be made. 

National Grid’s new tech announcement came less than a month after it revealed the UK’s electricity demand was met without the use of fossil fuels for three consecutive days from the 21st to 24th April 2018.