23 Feb 2024

Storm Utility North West

Electricity North West submits proposals to transform power network resilience

Fixing the line Riggshield, Laversdale Carlisle 2 small

Groundbreaking proposals which would transform the way the North West’s power network responds to storms have been submitted to energy regulator Ofgem. 

Electricity North West is seeking £35m to fund seven separate programmes which will enhance network reliability when adverse weather hits in some of the most remote areas across the region it covers.   

The power network operator has submitted proposals to Ofgem’s business plan reopener which was launched following Storm Arwen in 2021 which hit just as business plans were being submitted.  

The programmes, if approved, would see Electricity North West install more automation on the low voltage power network, improving visibility of issues and restoration times. Targeted sections of the overhead network would be moved underground whilst more interconnectors linking key parts of its network would be installed to improve resilience. 

New interconnectors would also be created to allow a mutual power exchange with neighboring distribution network operators (DNO) including Northern Powergrid and Scottish Power should either network require it to restore power to customers more quickly.  

MPs Tim Farron and Neil Hudson have supported Electricity North West’s submission as have Westmorland and Furness Council and Cumberland Council. 

Paul Killilea, Electricity North West’s asset and investment director, said: “Storm Arwen had a major disruptive impact on many of our customers through long duration outages and restoration challenges due to the continuing weather conditions. 

“We participated in industry reviews as well as carrying out our own review to improve how we can respond, speaking with hundreds of customers who were affected and that has undoubtedly improved our response in recent storms. 

“We’ve implemented a lot of lessons learned and while our network is built to and in many cases surpasses industry standards, we recognise there are various ways we can improve it even further in those areas that suffer most when the bad weather hits. As well as carrying out an ongoing, yearly, resilience programme in response to the climate change and variable weather, this reopener allows us to submit enhanced proposals which would improve resilience in these most rural areas.” 

In the immediate aftermath of Storm Arwen, Electricity North West made enhancements to its network management system and installed 750 low voltage monitoring devices in areas impacted by the weather. It also provided a £500,000 community fund which supported resilience in rural communities.  

Electricity North West has requested funding for: 

  • a proactive programme of overhead line strengthening and undergrounding in areas vulnerable to storm damage; 
  • installing new interconnectors with neighbouring networks which would help mitigate the impacts of future storm damage in either area; 
  • further restoration technology on its low voltage network; 
  • planned resilience schemes in Coniston and Alston, two areas which were severely affected by Storm Arwen.  

“Before submitting the proposals, we worked extensively with key, local stakeholders who challenged us on the need to improve the resilience of the network in the most exposed areas,” added Paul Killilea. “We want to continue working with those communities to ensure the funding is spent as wisely as possible to benefit them and their communities.” 

“If approved, the enhancements we would make would undoubtedly transform the way the power network responds to storm events, and we look forward to the response from Ofgem.”