Posted: 12 July 2017
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Reflections on a standout year

On the release of National Grid Gas Transmission’s (NGGT) Innovation Annual Summary, Pauline Walsh, Director of the Gas Transmission Owner (GTO), looks back at how the business has been building a more sustainable energy future.

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Reflections on a standout year

Reflections on a standout year

Project highlights from the past year have included our GRAID robot (Gas Robotic Agile Inspection Device).

"Our pipeline of new projects moved on considerably this year, with ground-breaking work done in areas such as cognitive technology, digital asset data collection and robotics."

Pauline Walsh, Director of the Gas Transmission Owner (GTO).

Insight:

Our first-ever Innovation Value Report rigorously measured the positive impact these projects are having for our customers. The total value was calculated at £6.9m to date, with £4 of value generated for every £1 we’ve invested.

Source: National Grid Gas Transmission Innovation Value Report.

In GTO, we’re committed to nurturing a culture of innovation within the energy industry. We take ideas from our employees – the people who understand the challenges we face – and, with drive, passion and commitment, we convert them into real business improvements that benefit our customers and communities for the long term.

Incentivising innovation

Pauline Walsh, Director of the Gas Transmission Owner (GTO).

Innovation is also at the core of how our business is funded. We operate under the RIIO-T1 price control mechanism, which was introduced by regulator Ofgem four years ago. RIIO stands for Revenue = Incentives + Innovation + Outputs and it offers incentives to drive the innovation needed to build a sustainable future energy network and offer value for money for energy customers.

RIIO supports two innovation funding mechanisms, Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) and Network Innovation Competition (NIC). Over the past four years, these have driven some incredible new methods, technology and ideas throughout the industry and allowed us to build a portfolio of more than 100 projects, investing more than £10m.

The full story of our latest year in innovation can be found in the NGGT Innovation Annual Summary, which we published for all customers and stakeholders on 12 July. So what better time to bring Connecting readers up to date on where we are – and what we’re achieving?

Advances across the board

Our pipeline of new projects moved on considerably this year, with ground-breaking work done in areas such as cognitive technology, digital asset data collection and robotics.

Through our first-ever Innovation Value Report, we rigorously measured the positive impact these projects are having for our customers. The total value was calculated at £6.9m to date, with £4 of value generated for every £1 we’ve invested. We believe that’s already a good return for our customers – and we expect the value of these innovations to continue to grow in the future.

But we’re certainly not complacent. We know there’s always room for improvement, which is why we carried out an innovation stakeholder survey last September. In the survey, we asked more than 100 of our internal project leads and external project partners to assess our innovation performance.

They told us what they liked, which included our openness to fresh ideas and new ways of doing things. But they also felt we could do better, particularly when it came to transforming what we’ve learned into business as usual.

As a result, we’ve been working even harder at engaging colleagues across our business in innovation, so we can all work together to put everything we’re learning into action. This broad buy-in from our people is helping us transform the way we do business and making significant improvements across our five strategic areas for innovation: safety, sustainability, financial, customer and stakeholder, and reliability and availability.

Solving existing or future challenges

You can read all about this in our Innovation Annual Summary, which also takes a closer look at some of the 44 NIA projects from the 2016/17 portfolio, as well as our two NIC projects.

Each one meets a clear and genuine business need – or aims to solve an existing, or future, challenge. These include everything from replacing ageing assets, to improving the service we provide to our customers – and making our network as economical and secure as possible.

Project highlights from the past year have included our GRAID robot (Gas Robotic Agile Inspection Device). We’re working to build a new generation robot to transform the way we manage buried assets at our high-pressure gas installations (AGIs).

Key milestones for this project included a radical redesign of the robot, which is now split into two vessels to improve its steering and agility. This helps it navigate the extreme conditions inside our pipelines. We also built the launch and retrieve vessel to get the robot safely in and out of the pipe, and commissioned a bespoke test rig ready for offline trials.

Project CLoCC – which will make it easier for a new generation of gas customers to connect to the National Transmission system (NTS) – also made big strides forward. We developed conceptual designs for an array of new connection options. We also built a practical online tool that allows customers to quickly compare and assess the best connection option for them. The project is now shifting into its final phase, with wide-reaching benefits set to arrive for customers in 2018.

Maximising the benefits of innovation

Our ambition for the fifth year of NIA and NIC is to continue to track the value we create from innovation and make sure that what we learn from projects continues to be embedded into our everyday business activities. We’ll continue to grow our portfolio of innovation in order to deliver a safe, reliable and efficient energy system for the future.

Find out more about the ground-breaking work we’re doing by downloading our Innovation Annual Summary here.

To download our mid-term Innovation Value Report click here.

Stage set for flagship competition