Electricity North West, the network operator and provider of power to Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria, has launched a drive to establish strategic partnerships with developers and major landowners.
ENW, one of 14 regional monopoly operators regulated by Ofgem, said that the move comes in response to growing pressure on the electricity network and will initially be targeted at Greater Manchester, which is expected to see demand for electricity double by 2050, beyond current capacity.
The operator said that the partnerships will come with no cost to developers or landowners. The responsibilities of bodies such as ENW are being enlarged, beyond their present duties of operating and maintaining a network within their territory, to take on developing and operating active distribution systems comprising networks, demand, generation and other flexible distributed energy resources.
In effect, this will enable those power customers with significant holdings to be both producers and consumers of energy. Alongside the target set by Mayor Andy Burnham for Greater Manchester to be carbon-neutral by 2038 and targets set by the Paris Climate Change Agreement, ENW said that Manchester’s growth has created a need for a collaborative approach on energy.
ENW said: “We need to be partnering with organisations and steering groups across our region, but the intensity with which Manchester is developing makes it a primary focus.
“Our recent study into future demand in the region showed that Manchester is set to see a 40% growth in maximum demand by 2023, with much of central Manchester expected to be at greater than 100% capacity by 2050.”
That study, ENW’s first annual report on electricity distribution in the region and future scenarios for power demand, was published in December, with eight areas highlighted as needing to be considered in development and usage, including electric vehicles, renewable energy sources, new energy markets and flexible consumption.
Steve Cox, engineering and technical director for ENW, said: “The North West is seen as the development focus for the Northern Powerhouse, but the provision of power could become a challenge if it is not addressed properly.
“As the sole network operator for the region, we have a responsibility to ensure that enough power can be provided where needed at an affordable price and in an environmentally sustainable way. We’re looking to strengthen our relationships with the people driving the economic growth of the region.”
As well as working with large scale landholders, ENW will look to work closely with steering groups such as Enterprise Zones and neighbourhood plan groups in Lancashire, Cumbria and Cheshire. ENW will attend MIPIM next month as part of the first stage of engagement.
Consumer-facing energy suppliers pay a percentage of their takings from customers into ENW for their supply. ENW spends £250m of this each year on maintaining the region’s electricity network infrastructure, part of which will now be allocated to funding infrastructure improvements through its partnerships.
Cox concluded: “By creating strategic partnerships with property developers we can support them from the very start of the development process, even advising on which sites to acquire based on the energy infrastructure. Most importantly though, we can help by funding and putting in place the investment needed to power the region.
“This is a completely new approach for Electricity North West. Energy usage is rising, but so is demand for lower carbon emissions. The only way to balance this is to work together to establish new ways of doing things.”