Ky Hoare, project manager for community and local energy, reflects on Western Power Distribution’s commitments to support community energy across its licence areas
Regen has been working with Western Power Distribution (WPD), the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) for the Midlands, South West and South Wales, to update their Net Zero Communities Strategy, which sets out how they will support community energy organisations to deliver low carbon energy projects throughout 2022 and across the next five years.
Since 2014, Regen has supported WPD to increase collaboration between community energy organisations and their DNO, helping many communities to connect their renewables projects to the network, get involved in innovation projects and learn about new concepts such as flexibility. This has helped over 100 community energy organisations across the South West, South Wales and the Midlands to develop local energy projects.
Now, we’re at a critical stage of our net zero journey. Achieving a fully decarbonised energy system by 2035 will require the mass uptake of new low carbon technologies such as heat pumps and electric vehicles, with radically changed behaviour around energy use in our homes. This means that, as an operator of key net zero infrastructure, DNOs and communities will have to work more closely than ever before to bring about the scale of change required in the fairest way possible to ensure a just transition.
With DNOs across Britain recently publishing their new business plans for 2023-2028, WPD want to show the strategic importance that community energy has to their business. The updated Net Zero Communities Strategy introduces WPD’s new Community Energy Engineer, who will help groups across their licence areas access the support and expertise they need to meet their local energy goals, while setting out actions to support community and local energy stakeholders over the next year, such as:
- Holding in-person and online Net Zero Communities Forums for stakeholders – from climate action groups to experienced community energy practitioners – to network, learn from each other and access expert advice on renewables, network connections, low carbon heat and transport, energy efficiency and fuel poverty.
- Publishing new online resources to help new and existing community energy organisations access expertise and advice from across the WPD team.
- Partnering on a network innovation project with a community energy organisation.
- Supporting more communities to access local electricity data through the OpenLV model
- Providing more accessible information on network connection costs and network reinforcement costs for communities through their website, surgeries and forums.
- Helping community energy organisations identify suitable funding opportunities through the Community Energy Engineer and newsletter.
Beyond this, WPD’s business plan for 2023-2028 includes commitments to connect at least 30 community-owned generation projects to their network each year, and an annual £1 million ‘Community Matters Fund’ to support communities across their licence areas.
With cities, towns and regions across the country plotting their path to net zero, DNOs are a key enabler to getting the renewables and other low carbon technologies connected to the network that we need to achieve this. WPD want to engage and help communities on this journey, so that no one is left behind in the energy transition.
If you want to find out more on how WPD can support community energy, and hear from local energy experts, join our free online Net Zero Communities Forum, 23 March, 2-4pm.
Read WPD’s Net Zero Communities Strategy here.