HIGHWAYS

Decarbonising energy networks on the road to net zero

Finding an effective route through the complexities of achieving net zero carbon by 2050 is not always easy, which is why many public sector organisations are seeking external help to optimise the journey. David Mills at EA Technology explores the options

In its net zero strategy Build Back Greener, released in October 2021, the Government said: ‘Devolved and local government play an essential role in meeting national net zero ambitions' because they are ‘...best placed to integrate activity on the ground'.

This will come as little surprise to those working in local authorities, who will be acutely aware of the myriad of complex and interrelated services and amenities that fall under their care. Having such a broad remit represents a unique opportunity to deliver real impact in terms of improving sustainability – yet it is a weighty responsibility for those tasked with delivering this change.

Senior local authority executives are increasingly pulled in multiple directions, with the need to balance environmental and economic targets with their long-term social obligations to residents within their communities. When it comes to tackling net zero, the most common objectives we come across in our consultancy work with local authorities are understanding the energy transition in their area; protecting vulnerable customers and identifying projects which deliver fair, competitive markets that bring local benefit while supporting the net zero evolution.

Working with an external consultant can be a useful tool in developing strategies to meet these objectives, whether that's simply advising without agenda (due to the fact we don't trade low carbon technology) and supporting decision makers, or delivering more tangible services, such as research and comparative analysis. For example, at EA Technology – as specialists in the energy industry and understanding the energy transition – our services are geared around analysing decarbonisation pathways and delivering a net zero future.

By utilising our knowledge in network design and planning, we help our consultancy customers decarbonise more effectively. We can assist with optimising energy systems with full techno-economic modelling capabilities and identify innovative trials for integrating low carbon technologies (LCTs). We can also advise on the strategic implementation of smart local energy systems (SLES) to gain maximum value for local communities.

Road to Net Zero project

The infrastructure sector, which collectively contributes one sixth of the UK's total carbon emissions, needs to dramatically reduce this figure in order for the UK to meet its decarbonisation targets.

The Road to Net Zero project by the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee and Transport for London (TfL) was commissioned to better understand how street and road works must change to minimise emissions and the contribution to climate change. To achieve this, research has been conducted into the current state of practice, current and future innovation and the potential consequences of any change within the following three categories:

• Climate change, net zero and beyond

• Material / process innovation

• Measuring environmental performance

EA Technology is leading the study in the Climate change, net zero and beyond category, focusing on the sector's emissions and what smart solutions can be used to achieve net zero. We have also delivered a web-based carbon calculator that utilities and highway authorities can use to track emissions associated with street and road works. The next phase of this project aims to develop this into an optioneering tool so street and road works can be delivered in a cost-effective way and reduces the local environmental impact.

Marches network monitoring

In another key project, EA Technology is working with National Grid Electricity Distribution, a Distribution Network Operator serving the Midlands, South West of England and the south of Wales, to install monitoring equipment into 200 low voltage (LV) substations within the Shropshire and Herefordshire areas.

This project, funded by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), aims to eliminate barriers for growth and identify opportunities for development in the Marches region.

The LEP wants to use this opportunity to understand local grid constraints that can increase the cost and/or the timescales for communities or businesses to connect their low carbon projects. The goal of this project is to provide new avenues for connections of distributed generation and allow local communities to develop SLES, taking more control of how they use and generate energy.

To ensure the project aligned with the LEP's mission of developing the region, EA Technology's first step was to understand the existing projects that could benefit from increased knowledge of their connections to the grid. EA Technology is working with local communities and businesses in the region to find projects and initiatives that would benefit from increased network monitoring. These will provide case studies showing best practice for LV monitoring deployment as a method of informing on possible connection constraints and network usage.

This project is an example of the continued work EA Technology is delivering with local authorities and similar non-industry stakeholders to provide expert advice on navigating the changing energy industry. Net Zero is part of a long-term shift to decarbonise economies in response to the climate emergency. The way we produce, use and store energy needs to rapidly change to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions on this journey.

EA Technology supports local stakeholders in managing this transition, from developing local energy plans, to understanding network capacity and constraints and providing examples of new technologies they can utilise to future proof their local areas.

David Mills is Head of Net Zero Transition at EA Technology

For more information please visit www.eatechnology.com

This article is sponsored content for The MJ

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