Networks respond to NIC Call for Ideas

Networks respond to NIC Call for Ideas

Britain's energy network companies have announced the next steps of the gas and electricity Network Innovation Competition (NIC) Call for Ideas.

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) has released new information on the proposals submitted.

This year's Call focused on addressing the priority areas identified in the gas and electricity Network Innovation Strategy documents, which were published in March 2018 following a full process of public consultation. Those themes, all focussed on how innovation can benefit customers, are:

  • Network improvements & system operability
  • Reliability, replacement, maintenance and repair
  • Low carbon and environment
  • Future of gas
  • Safety and health
  • Emergency response
  • New technologies & commercial evolution
  • Security

The NIC is an annual competition run by Ofgem for energy network infrastructure operators to compete for funding for the demonstration of new technologies, operating and commercial arrangements. The joint Call for Ideas is designed to provide innovative companies with the opportunity to partner with network infrastructure operators to compete for up to £20 million of funding available for gas network projects and up to £70m available for electricity network projects.

A total of 58 proposals were submitted in response to the Call. 45 of the proposals were electricity focused, 12 were cross-vector focused (i.e. jointly working across more than one specific area of the energy industry) and on was gas specific.

Electricity proposals included:

  • 17 projects related to network improvements
  • 13 projects related to the transition to a low carbon future
  • 9 projects related to new technologies and commercial evolution
  • 3 projects related to customers and stakeholders
  • 3 projects related to safety, health and environment. 

Cross-vector proposals include:

  • 6 projects related to flexible networks
  • 4 projects related to power to gas initiatives
  • 1 project related to communications
  • 1 project related to community energy

The ENA and network operators went through a rigorous process of assessing the proposals against the published award criteria. Scores and comments were then consolidated and collectively reviewed by network innovation representatives. Based on this process, the group agreed which proposals met the NIC criteria and had the most potential. These proposals were shortlisted and the applicants invited to present to network company representatives at two NIC Information Days.

12 proposals were shortlisted and interviewed. Network companies are now actively working with the applicants to progress the seven successful ideas from the NIC Call for Ideas.

The ENA will announce on 29 March which proposals have made it through to the next stage of the Call, the Initial Screening Process, which will see successful projects partner with network companies to pitch to the energy regulator, Ofgem, for NIC funding.

ENA chief executive David Smith said: "Whether it be delivering the secure and reliable energy that we all depend upon, developing Britain's Internet of Energy or coming up with new ways to move the nation through decarbonisation transport, innovation projects are key to energy network companies' commitment to building a smarter, cleaner and more flexible energy system for the British public.

"We were delighted by both the quality and number of responses that we had to the Joint Call for Ideas. They are a sign of how successful current system has been in bringing forward new ideas to deliver a more flexible, smarter and cleaner energy system for the public. What's important is that as we head into the RIIO-2 process, the regulator builds on that legacy in its proposals for the price control, and that legacy doesn't go to waste."

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