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Who’s on our wires?

Birds sitting on electricity cables.

Working with a district network operator to prepare for changes in electricity demand.

Project duration: April 2011 to February 2013

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) predicts that reducing the UK’s carbon consumption will lead to the electrification of our energy use – both for heat and transport. District Network Operators (DNOs) are preparing for this increase in demand.

Western Power Distribution (WPD) commissioned CSE to look at the demographics of their customers to make predictions about their future energy use and therefore changes in network load. The findings were used to identify priority areas for network reinforcement, allowing WPD to undertake strategic business planning and investment in assets.

The work employed CSE’s Housing Assessment Model as well as a range of other datasets. Household-level information on property characteristics and socio-demographic type (the Mosaic dataset) was used to calculate whether, based on a set of assumptions, a household would take up certain technologies that affect electricity consumption e.g. electric heating, electric vehicles, solar PV, ground or air source heat pumps. These households were then associated with their connecting substation to identify the substations likely to be facing the greatest changes in demand; these are the ones that will need heavier investment.

The Mosaic dataset was also used to help WPD fulfill their social obligations by identifying customers who should be linked to fuel poverty programmes, and those who should be on the Priority Services Register (PSR) and require emergency help in the event of a power cut. It shows LSOAs (lower layer super output areas; geographical census areas) that are most likely to have vulnerable customers, allowing WPD to target social obligations work to help alleviate fuel poverty in these areas.

CSE is now a partner in a new scheme offering free energy advice to PSR clients identified through this project. Those who opt in are contacted by an advisor who can offer support to maximise income, switch suppliers, and access schemes that offer free energy efficiency measures, as well as general home heating advice.

CSE has significant experience in building tools and capabilities to model changes to the energy system. A previous project looking at the use of smart meter data led to the development of a file system and computing platform to store, process, and retrieve data from very large datasets. Our Housing Assessment Model has been used in several projects modelling energy use of housing stock, for example in Somerset. CSE’s research team have also developed the National Household Model for DECC – a domestic energy policy modelling and analytical tool covering the whole of Great Britain – and have used this to model the impact of climate change policies on fuel poverty and determine how best to deploy proposed domestic energy efficiency measures to address fuel poverty.

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