Western Power Distribution (WPD), the distribution network operator for the Midlands, the South West and South Wales, is encouraging innovators to turn their ideas into reality by working with them in its 2021 Network Innovation Competition (NIC) call for ideas.
As part of the annual NIC scheme, run by the regulatory body Ofgem, electricity network companies are invited to compete for funding for the development and demonstration of new technologies, operating and commercial arrangements.
The call for ideas is open to companies, individuals, groups and projects that can support Western Power Distribution with future NIC schemes. This year, the power distribution company is particularly keen to receive applications from high-tech small and medium-sized enterprises, and to harness their entrepreneurial and innovative skills.
Funding will be awarded to the best projects focusing on areas such as data usage in energy transition, electrification of heat, decarbonisation and the electrification of transport.
Successful applicants will get the opportunity to work with Western Power Distribution’s skilled engineers to develop their idea into a multi-million pound project. Typically, NIC projects run for three to four years, allowing enough time to design, develop, test and then trial solutions.
The WPD Innovation team is looking for projects to address problems such as using new or existing data to plan and operate networks more efficiently, how will the electrification of heat impact networks, how can local authorities best understand and act on the implications of local decarbonisation ambitions, and can additional network capacity be facilitated to support electric vehicle charging in constrained network areas?
Yiango Mavrocostanti, Innovation Team Manager at WPD, said: “In recent years, we have seen some exciting innovations emerge from NIC projects and are looking forward to seeing what proposals are put forward this year.
“As we continue to modernise the network and look to use new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, it will become increasingly important to work with a wider range of partners outside of the traditional sector, harnessing different thinking and innovation.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for individuals, universities, groups and companies to demonstrate their innovative work and apply it to the modernisation of the network.
Previous WPD NIC projects include DC Share which was launched earlier this year. The project aims to deliver rapid EV charging in town centres without the need to upscale electricity infrastructure. A trial of DC Share will launch in Taunton next year and, if successful, could help deliver an estimated 217,000 electric vehicle chargers in urban spaces across WPD’s licence area by 2030. This would facilitate the charging of over 110,000 electric vehicles which are projected to be in use across the South West by 2023.