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Our innovation is helping shape the future

Posted on 18 October 2016 12:49 PM by dimit1i

As an innovation engineer, the Low Carbon Networks and Innovation (LCNI) conference in Manchester was the place to be last week. This annual three-day event is a great place to get a picture of how our sector will look in the future and the challenges ahead.

One big thing I picked up at the LCNI is that our distribution industry is in an era of change, in which the traditional rules apply less and less. Being in the innovation team means I get to work at the sharp end of all this, which is really exciting. 

I did a presentation about a state-of-the-art technology we have part-funded, which promises to deliver real benefits to customers by reducing the impact of power cuts, by keeping the lights on in as many homes as possible when there is a temporary fault.

Another hot innovation topic at the conference was energy storage and of course our big battery at Leighton Buzzard is one of the leading research projects in this area. Increasing numbers of wind and solar energy generators want to store their excess output so it’s a growth area, with many customers asking us about energy storage. We have now accepted a scheme to store 62 megawatts, which is ten times the size of our trial battery. 

These innovations got a lot of positive feedback at the conference, which was a personal highlight for me. It’s great to hear what a difference your work will make.

The LCNI was also a great way to spend time with colleagues outside of the office. It’s too easy to know someone only for the job they do, so it was good to spend time with my team and meet UK Power Networks colleagues from other departments, including Asset Management and Connections. The fact they were all at the conference illustrates how seriously our company is about being at the forefront of innovation.

And although the working days at LCNI were long, there was still time for fun. One evening we were invited to a gala dinner, which was held beneath the wings of a Concorde aircraft. We even got to board this amazing icon of engineering and to sit in the seat used by the Queen when she used to fly supersonic.

Overall, the LCNI conference was a superb event and I’d say the best thing about it was learning how innovation in our industry has delivered real value, adding up to more than double the amount of money invested by OFGEM, our regulator. It’s good to know we are pushing things forward in a way which benefits customers. 

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