Electricity North West (ENW), the region’s primary power network operator, has recently launched its vision for how it will help transform how energy is delivered across it—through the use of electric vehicles to community energy schemes and everything in between, in a bid to lead the north west of England in becoming entirely carbon neutral.
This is according to ENW’s report, ‘Powering the North West’s Future’. It highlights ENW’s bold ambitions to help the north west become carbon neutral by 2050, and Greater Manchester by 2038.
Electricity North West sets to make an example for other electricity network operators in England by being fully-powered by renewables.
Chasing Carbon Neutrality
The UK government has set a major milestone: that by 2050, the UK should have achieved an 80% reduction in carbon emissions.
In 2018, for the first time, more than half of all electricity consumed in the UK was generated from carbon-neutral sources, and growing demand for these resources now means that the power network and infrastructure in place must adapt and transform with new innovative ways, processes, and technologies to ensure that it can be met.
In its report, ENW outlines several key roles and responsibilities of a smarter and more flexible Distribution ‘System’ Operator (DSO) that will replace the traditional Distribution Network Operator (DNO) model, and the technical and regulatory challenges that will be faced when transitioning from DNO to DSO. It follows their previous evidence paper launched last year, ‘The vital role for distribution system operators’, that set out opportunities and challenges with the UK’s transition to a smart and flexible energy system.
Paul Bircham, ENW’s strategy director, said, “The evolution we are going through in our industry presents an exciting proposition for us as a business and our job now is to develop new relationships with customers, the community and partners in the energy supply chain. While the nature and pace of change in the north west cannot be predicted with certainty, it is vital that we identify likely themes and priorities now, so that everyone in our region can face the future with confidence. We are certain that the new report will help to inform regional and national debate about the future role of DSOs.”
An Ambitious Target
While there is nothing wrong with being hopeful, it is difficult to ignore the fact that ENW’s goal is a very lofty target. Powering the whole north west of England with carbon-neutral sources is not something that is going to happen overnight, and will require years, if not decades, of research and development.
That being said, it can be achieved. At the time of writing, there are depots and offices owned by ENW that are being powered by renewable energy generated by the Walney Wind Farm, just off the coast of Cumbria. The problem is not that it cannot be done—it is certainly possible to power entire buildings and even cities with renewable energy, but rather that it is difficult to scale with current technology and infrastructure.
Still, ENW’s switch to renewable sources in their depots and offices has helped the company take a huge step towards becoming carbon neutral itself, in line with its ‘Leading the North West to Zero Carbon’ initiative.
Helen Boyle, ENW’s strategic decarbonization manager, said, “We’ve set a target as a business to become carbon neutral by 2038 in line with Greater Manchester. While it’s an ambitious target, we know it can be achieved, and by switching to 100 percent renewable electricity, it certainly helps us take a huge step in the right direction. As the region’s electricity network operator, we’re at the forefront of helping the region meet its carbon neutral targets. We’re constantly investing in new technology as the north west moves away from fossil fuels and uses more renewable electricity for things like transport and heating.”