Ahead of next month’s Low Carbon Networks and Innovation (LCNI) Conference in Manchester, Head of RIIO Delivery Mark Brackley discusses how innovation is energising National Grid’s business and generating lasting value for customers and stakeholders.
"Sharing successes, breakthroughs and other learning is also essential. It allows other innovators to understand what we’re working on and identify ways they can support us"
Mark Brackley, Head of RIIO Delivery, National Grid.
Through Project GRAID we could save around £60m in 20 years and 2,000 tonnes of carbon every year.
Source: National Grid.
Innovative thinking underpins how we do business at National Grid. From our pioneering work trialling greener insulating gases on our electricity network to raising the bar on robotics through Project GRAID (Gas Robotic Agile Inspection Device), we’re constantly breaking new ground. But why is it so important that our business innovates?
Our portfolio of innovation projects prioritises the areas that require the greatest focus and have the potential to make the biggest positive impact: improving security of supply and network reliability; operating efficiently to minimise costs for consumers; promoting the transition to a decarbonised energy system; improving our customers’ experience; and improving safety.
The proof is in the numbers. Take Project GRAID, for example, one of our most important innovations in Gas Transmission. By finding a new robotic solution that will streamline inspections of high-pressure gas pipelines, we could save around £60m in 20 years and 2,000 tonnes of carbon every year.
Working together to push the boundaries
Collaboration is absolutely vital if we’re going to maximise the potential of innovation. We work closely with external partners and suppliers who provide cutting-edge expertise, research and development on all our innovation projects. Together, we achieve so much more than any of us could on our own.
Sharing successes, breakthroughs and other learning is also essential. It allows other innovators to understand what we’re working on and identify ways they can support us. It also inspires them to generate further ideas, because we know from experience that innovation breeds innovation.
That’s why we continually connect with our peers and the wider industry. We share our knowledge at showpiece events such as Utility Week Live and the LCNI Conference, as well as various cross-industry innovation forums and events. Our membership of various international organisations also allows us to collaborate with experts and partners on a global scale.
Probably the most important word for me in the innovation journey is ‘implementation’. That’s because innovations only deliver real benefits when they’re fully embedded in our processes. Any concept needs to be rigorously researched, developed, tested and implemented before it can make a sustainable difference. So we’re committed to linking up across networks and industries to ensure that as many inspirational and worthwhile ideas as possible become operational reality.
We know that our business has a unique position at the heart of the energy system. It gives us considerable insight, understanding and the opportunity to generate engagement between stakeholders that drives collaboration, unlocks solutions and sees great ideas being implemented.
We’re passionate about fulfilling this important role and committed to delivering innovations that contribute to the success of our business as we build the sustainable, affordable and secure networks of tomorrow.
All the projects you’ll see on our stand at the LCNI Conference on 11-13 October at Manchester Central have the potential to help us do business better and maximise the benefits for our customers and stakeholders. Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect to see:
Electricity Transmission will demonstrate projects including finding a greener alternative to insulating SF6 gas; our unique Deeside Project, where we are converting an existing substation into an evaluation facility, something that allows us to trial uncertain technologies which might otherwise be too hazardous to test on the live network; four different projects around Solar PV that aim to make forecasting more accurate; and the latest from our Enhanced Frequency Control Capability (EFCC) project, where we’re aiming to find innovative ways of controlling frequency in low-inertia transmission systems.
The Gas Transmission exhibits will include Project GRAID (described above); Project CLoCC (Customer Low Cost Connections), where we’re minimising the time and cost involved for gas producers to connect to the National Transmission System (NTS); Asset Information Modelling (AIM), an extension of our BIM project, where we’re making it quicker, cheaper and more accurate to produce intelligent models of our assets; and Composite Transition Pieces and Pipe Supports, a quicker and safer solution for maintaining pipes that exit our concrete inspection pits. A key presentation will explain the evolution of an innovation project.
Highlights from Gas Distribution will include a demonstration of our robotic Tier One Replacement System (TORS), which can make service-to-mains connections for homes and businesses without having to dig a hole; an introduction to Blow Air Extrusion (BAE), which uses a vortex of air to spray a polymer into an old service pipe to form a new one; Sealback, a system that allows mains replacement to be carried out in live gas conditions; Virtual Reality, an opportunity to explore the method of capturing complex working procedures using interactive virtual-reality/augmented-reality technology; and the ongoing development of our pioneering BioSNG plant in Swindon.
To register to take part in this year’s LCNI Conference or to find out more go to www.lcniconference.org