WPD leads consortium to create combined future energy planning approach for local authorities and utility companies

  • Western Power Distribution’s Energy Planning Integrated with Councils (EPIC) project is exploring whether a combined approach to energy planning can provide greater benefits for local authorities and utility companies;
  • EPIC will develop a standardised industry first process that can be used with different local authorities to create local energy plans. The tool will model the impact on utility networks, identifying the location and timings of required network investments to support the predicted energy consumption;
  • The tool is expected to assess the long-term cost to the consumer and support regional strategic development goals, such as Net Zero and supporting local jobs

Western Power Distribution (WPD), the electricity distribution network operator (DNO) for the Midlands, South West and South Wales, has launched a project that works together with local authorities in south west England and other energy network companies to lower carbon/achieve net zero carbon emissions and protect the environment. Its Energy Planning Integrated with Councils (EPIC) project will explore whether a combined approach to energy planning can provide greater benefits for local authorities and utility companies. The £540,000 Network Innovation Allowance funded project, will see WPD, gas company Wales & West Utilities, local authorities in the South West, Power Systems Consultants (PSC), energy consultants Regen and EA Technology work together to develop a tool to allow the investment plans for energy networks and the local authorities to be jointly analysed to identify potential synergies.

In the current process to create Distribution Future Energy Scenarios (DFES), utility companies consult local authorities who provide input into the process. However, DFES are based on national scenarios and do not wholly adopt or incorporate local authorities’ longer term strategic plans. This can lead to different expectations for future energy requirements between the local authority and utility companies. EPIC is seeking to develop a standardised process and tool that can be used with different local authorities to create a more accurate, local energy plan.

The project will look to develop an agreed process for identifying and analysing energy plans in relation to increased uptake in electric vehicles, small scale renewable generation, the decarbonisation of heat, imThree areas in the South West of England will trial the process and supported tool. Experts on regional local authorities are providing expertise to help ensure that the planning process developed during the project can be applied more generally across local authorities. Energy consultants Regen will lead on determining how the different planning processes can be aligned so that local authorities and utilities plans are based on a common view. 

Having agreed on a future energy scenario, the impact on utility networks will then be modelled to identify the location and timings of required network investments to support the predicted energy consumption. These investments will be assessed to optimise the potential benefits to all parties and will be further assessed on whether the combined plans will deliver additional benefits versus the separate processes currently used.  

PSC will be providing a new tool for automated high voltage network assessment while EA Technology will be adapting their Network Investment Forecasting Tool to analyse the low voltage networks in the trial areas. While strategic network planning, including stakeholder engagement, is routine for the networks operating at or over 33kV, it is hoped that modelling the high and low voltage networks will provide results that reflect changes at a local neighbourhood level that are easier for local authorities to relate to their own plans.

The tool is expected to assess the long-term cost to the consumer and support regional strategic development goals, such as decarbonisation and supporting local jobs. The project is expected to last for 20 months.