Image: Western Power Distribution

Western Power Distribution is working to use digital technologies and improved data management to transform its network operation and deliver net zero.

Western Power Distribution (WPD), like other UK network operators, is required to transition to a system operator with new market and operator roles to enable the shift to a decentralised and decarbonised energy system. Together these require both an increased level of coordination with existing operators and consumers, as well as the creation of new forms of coordination with emerging energy participants such as flexibility aggregators.

Digitalisation, the use of digital technologies and data, clearly underpins this transition with the need for management of real-time energy flows and optimisation of the network capacity.

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WPD bases its digitalisation strategy on three elements. These are improved data quality and data management with the introduction of new systems such as a geographical information system; increasing network insight and operation by leveraging the data with analytics and control systems; and presumed open data with the addition of new datasets and tools and ensuring that the data is discoverable and usable.

Further, the strategy defines five key focus areas: data governance, cataloguing, best practices, use cases and innovation. Under a governance group comprised of representatives from across the company, these are to ensure the strategy is implemented effectively and delivers the intended benefits to both the company and its customers.

“WPD is committed to delivering tangible and impactful change through our digitalisation programme,” says DSO digitalisation & data manager Jonathan Berry. “To date, the modernisation of the energy industry has been hindered by a lack of valuable data. Our roadmap sets out our long-term vision and approach to ensure that we capture, manage and share our data to enable a net-zero transition, and continue to deliver excellent customer service, reliability and value for money.”

For WPD, similar to most utilities, the digital strategy is a work in progress. Examples of progress to date include the development of open access maps providing information on issues such as power cuts, network flexibility and electric vehicle capacity. Another is the development of an integrated network model drawing data from multiple datasets to plan and track network improvements.

Other projects include a web-based data portal focussed on network assets with their geographic location and technical parameters and an embedded capacity register for use by parties including flexibility providers and the national system operator National Grid ESO.

The strategy covers the period up to the end of Ofgem’s RIIO-ED1 network development price control in March 2023 and then through the next RIIO-ED2 stretching to 2028.

WPD delivers electricity to 7.9 million customers in the east and west Midlands and southwest of England and south Wales.