As the new Chief Executive Officer at Green Summit 2022 official partner Electricity North West, Ian Smyth tells us there’s never been a more challenging and exciting time to be part of the energy industry.

Electricity North West is the Distribution Network Operator for the North West of England. We’re responsible for maintaining and upgrading the region’s electricity network and keeping the power on for 2.4 million homes and businesses across Cumbria, Lancashire and Greater Manchester.

It’s our job to make sure the network is fit for the future and meet the changing needs of our customers across the North West.

The changing climate is one of the greatest challenges of our time and network operators like us are uniquely placed to deliver some aspects of the energy transition. We’re helping customers adopt cleaner, greener ways to power their cars and heat their homes – and doing this in a way that means every home and business can take part and benefit from the transition.

Our commitment is to ‘lead the North West to net zero’, with our business plan for 2023-2028 setting out the actions we’ll be taking. We’re planning to invest £1.8 billion over the next five years while reducing our share of our customers’ electricity bills at the same time.

Helping households reduce energy bills

It’s an incredibly difficult time for many of our customers as they are confronted with increases to the cost of living and escalating energy costs. To help with this, our part of the electricity bill will reduce in real terms from April 2023 to less than £80 a year as we implement our new business plan.

We’ve also developed a wide referral network of partners and charities who will support with energy saving advice and solutions to help customers reduce the amount of energy they use and lose in their homes. Our website provides a portal to this support system.

We also support customers with our extra care programme which enables households and businesses to get extra help during a power cut.

Helping businesses reduce energy bills and CO2 emissions

Our net zero business support team is dedicated to helping North West businesses reduce their energy bills and carbon emissions.

They will help by explaining the technologies available, highlighting the latest funding, grants and financial incentives, sharing case studies of successful projects, signposting local suppliers and installers and introducing other support available from Electricity North West and our partners.

Our advice is underpinned by our own experience of working towards becoming a net zero business. This includes adapting our offices and depots to be net zero sites by enhancing the fabric of our buildings, implementing energy efficiency measures and adopting renewable generation.

We have a sustainable travel policy in place. As part of this we’re installing charge points at our sites to make it easier for our colleagues to adopt electric vehicles. We offer an electric vehicle and cycle purchase scheme, we include electric vehicles on our company car scheme and we incentivise the use of public transport and cycling as a means of travelling to work. We’ve also begun the replacement of our own fleet vehicles with low emission alternatives.

Helping community and local energy groups

We help our communities with dedicated support, advice and funding for community-led projects or initiatives to reduce, manage, generate or purchase energy. This covers anything from providing energy saving advice to installing solar panels, heat pumps and electric vehicle charge points.

In the last four years we’ve provided £300,000 to support 26 community-led projects across the region which have helped thousands of people to understand the impact of climate change and how to reduce their emissions.

We’ve also helped communities to address specific barriers to action and unlock projects that may not have progressed without our support. As a result, communities across the North West have a stake in their energy future and a platform from which to grow and achieve their net zero ambitions.

Investing in the network

To improve the capacity and resilience of our network we’re investing a million pounds every day in the thousands of miles of underground cables and overhead electricity lines that serve the region.

This will ensure that our customers continue to have a system they can rely on during the cost of living crisis and beyond, while ensuring our network can adapt to the unparalleled changes and meet the extra demand we expect to see in the future.

We’re preparing for this in a number of ways. We’re investing in new substations and cables. We’re investing in digital technology, installing new monitoring and control systems to transform our network into a smart grid. We’re also developing innovative solutions to deliver more efficient ways of working to make the best use of our existing assets.

In short, we’re here to lead the North West to net zero, making sure that we respond to our customers’ calls for help to lower their bills and carbon emissions, and enable sustainable growth and investment across the region.

We’re proud to be sponsoring this year’s Green Summit and we’re committed to helping Greater Manchester achieve net zero by 2038.

You can find out more about what we’re doing to lead the North West to net zero on our website.

Ian Smyth, Chief Executive Officer, Electricity North West

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