National Grid Electricity Distribution has been awarded £558,491 for a project in partnership with West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Advanced Infrastructure to improve regional energy planning for net zero by bringing together key stakeholders and relevant datasets on a single digital platform.
The project is being funded by £499,874 from Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), managed in partnership with Innovate UK, with the remainder coming from project partners.
Project PRIDE (Planning Regional Infrastructure in a Digital Environment) is aimed at accelerating decarbonisation of major energy demands as part of the round two alpha projects in Ofgem’s SIF.
Earlier in the year, Project PRIDE was given the green light in the round two Discovery phase, which investigated the range of use cases and governance structures of a virtual Regional System Planner and the additional datasets and models required to answer these questions.
Project partner Advanced Infrastructure, a company that develops and provides spatial analytics and digital twins for the energy transition, facilitated the feasibility study by exploring how digital tools such as a Local Area Energy Planning tool (LAEP+) can help organisations develop their net zero plans.
As part of the Alpha phase project , the consortium will now take its initial feasibility work to the next level, where a digital twin will be developed, building on Advanced Infrastructure’s existing LAEP+ platform to incorporate new functionality and enabling prioritisation and zoning to support coordinated planning between local authority and network operators.
Network data such as capacity will give local authorities greater insight when drawing up their Local Area Energy Plans and enable them to plan projects and investment in energy, transport, heating and housing. In return, data is obtained from local authorities to help plan and deliver network development and reinforcement where it’s needed most.
The Alpha phase will also integrate learning from National Grid’s Network Innovation Competition (NIC) and Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) funded projects EQUINOX, DEFENDER, VENICE and EPIC that provide relevant information on flexibility, energy efficiency impacts, vulnerable customers and future load profiles. Governance structures developed by WMCA as part of its Deeper Devolution Deal from central Government and under PfER RESO will be applied and tested.
The project is funded by energy network users and consumers through the Strategic Innovation Fund, a programme funded by the UK’s independent energy regulator Ofgem, managed in partnership with Innovate UK.
Jenny Woodruff, Innovation Manager at National Grid Electricity Distribution, said:
“The PRIDE project aims to establish how digital tools can support collaboration between distribution network operators and local authorities to create a more coordinated and integrated process when planning and connecting decarbonised heat and transport solutions.
“By sharing data, we can work even more closely together to help deliver Local Area Energy Plans, reducing cost and timescales, and ensuring the electricity network is ready ahead of need to ensure a cleaner and fairer energy future for all.”
Christopher Jackson, CEO at Advanced Infrastructure said:
"The PRIDE project will provide a powerful opportunity to develop and embed best practice local and regional approaches towards decarbonising local areas through the use of digital twins and data-driven decision making.
"We are thrilled to be working alongside our project partners on the Alpha phase which aims to produce a whole systems digital planning tool and regional governance structure to support local authorities in producing more Local Area Energy Plans at a lower cost and serving energy network planning needs."
Cheryl Hiles, Director at Energy Capital, West Midlands Combined Authority, said:
“We are delighted that Project PRIDE will be tested and delivered in the West Midlands. The Energy Capital team at the WMCA has a long- standing partnership with National Grid Electricity Distribution and are excited to be working together on this project.
“It will help the region develop a cost-effective way to produce local area energy plans with our local authorities and other partners, while also providing Ofgem and network operators with valuable insights into how the future energy system can work more effectively to meet the diverse needs of our businesses and communities.”