Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 28

Submission by the Energy Networks Association (ENA)


  1.  ENA is the industry body for the licensed electricity and gas transmission and distribution companies in the UK, and we welcome the opportunity to provide our views.

  2.  It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the feasibility, costs, timescales and progress in commercialising renewable technologies and we will limit our response to consideration of the technical development of the networks required to facilitate increased volumes of renewable energy-generation.


  3.  New forms of Renewable energy-generation will bring a range of challenges for networks, including a need to address stability, intermittency, security and plant margin issues. At distribution level there will be an impact on how networks have to be designed and operated, potentially transforming them from largely "passively" managed to more "actively" managed systems. The ENA recognises that this is technically possible but the changes will require time to be fully researched, prove reliability in the field and then to build into the networks. There will also be a concomitant requirement for investment.

  4.  Increasing deployment of decentralised energy systems will also have a profound impact on the whole of the network system and will present integration and management challenges.


  5.  The regulatory framework for the energy network companies will need to be adapted to accommodate the technological developments outlined above. The existing regime has been successful in removing inefficiencies, resulting in network charges to customers falling by 50% in real terms since 1990. Additional elements have been added to the simple RPI-X model to incentivise reductions in losses, improve quality of supply, and support for distributed generation and network innovation. However, it will be necessary to consider whether the current framework of incentives gives sufficient weight to long-term considerations of the environment and network development. If not, can it be adapted to accommodate them or do we need a different, more strategic approach to deliver the kind of networks which will be required in response to the long term needs of customers?

  6.  The implications for the networks of the proposals for the so called "eco towns" will require a co-ordinated approach to planning and regulation which properly incentivises network development and removes barriers to its speedy implementation.


  7.  The bulk of the existing electricity transmission and distribution system was built in the 1950s to meet the needs of a very different electricity generation paradigm. Principal asset lives are typically 50 years and so the current infrastructure will increasingly need replacement. If it is to be effectively adapted to meet the needs of renewable energy-generation technologies then decisions on deployment need to be made soon.

  8.  A considerable deficit is developing in engineering skills, which may constrain the ability to build and operate the networks of the future. We welcome the Government's increased emphasis on skills development.


  9.  Successful deployment of generation by whatever technology is tied inextricably to parallel developments in networks. We are concerned that energy policy and how this is reflected in the regulatory regime for networks does not adequately deal with the need to synchronise developments in generation and infrastructure.

  10.  We would welcome the opportunity to take questions either in person or by correspondence to assist the Committee in its deliberations.

July 2007

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