WPD champions home flex to uncork Net Zero bottlenecks


Western Power Distribution is bidding to incentivise more home-based flex services, en route to boosting the benefits of a more efficient energy system in its updated Distribution System Operator (DSO) strategy.

The DNO’s ideas detail its approach to developing DSO services, independent of its core business as a Distribution Network Operator (DNO).

The blueprint outlines moves to harness enhanced home-centred flex markets, to free up network capacity across its licence areas in the Midlands, South West and South Wales.

By easing access for third parties, aggregators and intermediaries to deliver more flex, the operator aims to spur competition and deliver additional network capacity. The goal is to hook up more dispersed wind and solar, more big batteries, and more low carbon kit such as heat pumps and EV charge points.

WPD’s spruced up Digitalisation Action Plan is designed to help data-led third party innovators in systems integration to develop new fixes to the UK’s network flexibility challenge.

The DNO cites its recently launched Connected Data Portal. Serving eight million accounts, and investing £ 1 billon each year, WPD believes increased data transparency empowers entrepreneurial third parties to deliver brainwaves, increasing efficiency for home customers.

Around 17% of average home bills currently goes on improving its relays and cables, WPD calculates.

WPD believes its focus on facilitating neutral markets will help foster more dynamic flex services, rewarding innovators with increased flexibility, as well as rewarding end consumers who make smarter, low energy choices.  The outcome will be ‘win-wins’  as the UK accelerates towards net zero, at the same time capping household bills.

Best flex in the west

Through its Flexible Power brand, WPD claims to lead in developing DSO services.  Five DNOs have picked up on this national market platform, a matching service with flex providers.  Aggregated homes who contract to cut consumption at peak times can ease cost pressures on rarely used network assets.

Western claims “hundreds” of consumers now participate in its branded flex exchange.   It says 450MW of flexibility has been unlocked, enabling the connection of renewable generators and the charging of thousands of EVs in patches totalling nearly two million of its customers.

Following up on its Network Innovation Allowance, the DNO’s FutureFlex and Intraflex projects are demonstrating the potential for widespread integration of domestic flexibility and nearer real time trading of services.

Active decarbonisation

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 prioritises new innovative service businesses, able to partner with DNOs.

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.

WPD system development manager Paul Jewell 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.”

Two workstreams encompass WPD’s new DSO approach.

  • System Operator Functions focus on deploying new fixes to maintain efficient, economic and co-ordinated networks. Cascaded networks of 132kV, 66kV and 33kV are its priority
  • DSO Enablers addresses how the DNO will deliver activities supporting evolving neutral markets, including for flex. Examples may include data supply for a given market, or developing systems to reconfigure or optimise responsive networks in real time.

WPD’s full updated DSO strategy can be read here.


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