Dec 07, 2017

WPD takes active step towards new role as Distribution System Operator

The way we generate, distribute and consume electricity is changing due to advances in technology affecting the entire energy system. Generation is becoming cleaner and more distributed. Networks are becoming smarter and more active. And customers are seeking more renewable energy sources with private solar and electric vehicles on the rise.

Always ready to adapt, Western Power Distribution (WPD) has risen to these challenges by implementing innovative solutions to unlock additional network capacity. But looking ahead at what is set to be a transformative era for the UK energy industry it recognises that it must evolve to meet the future energy demands of all customers.

In July, WPD released its plan to transition from a Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to a Distribution System Operator (DSO). Through 2023, the company will invest almost $164 million to implement a transition strategy that will drive performance and efficiency on the power grid.

“The company’s transition to a DSO model will support the customer adoption of electric cars, low carbon heating and distributed generation investment,” said WPD Operations Director Phil Swift.  “This is a natural extension of our current role as a DNO, and we are uniquely positioned to lead the management of an efficient and cost effective electricity system at a local level.”


WPD is one of 14 DNOs in the U.K. whose job it is to carry electricity, in one direction, from the high voltage transmission grid to industrial, commercial and residential users. They also support times of maximum demand and generation on the distribution grid. In addition, DNOs are responsible for managing interconnections to the power grid, such as requests to add private solar and wind generation to the network. These requests have grown exponentially in recent years.

While a DNO typically provides passive network support, a DSO actively manages the flow of energy across the distribution system. A DSO balances the two-way flow of power across the local and regional network. To achieve balance, the DSO studies past and current flows of energy across the system, forecasts future energy volumes and then actively reconfigures the system as needed.

The Path to a DSO

As WPD moves from DNO to DSO, it will carry out its existing functions and take on some new ones.

“The DSO plan identifies the investment and staff training required and puts us on the front foot to prepare for the changes that lie ahead,” said WPD’s Network Strategy and Innovation Manager Nigel Turvey.

During the six-year transition, the company will focus on building a smarter, more secure grid that has the flexibility to accommodate distributed energy resources. It will also identify and adopt ways to increase network capacity through non-network solutions, such as energy storage and microgrids, and enhance coordination with the Transmission System Operator.

“There is huge potential for new roles across the organization as the way we assess, build, connect new customers and manage the network becomes more diverse and complex,” said Turvey.

What is next?

Earlier this year, WPD sought stakeholder feedback on the proposed transition plan. The company updated its strategy in November based on this feedback, hosting a series of stakeholder events.

“We value the great insight and experience our local stakeholders bring to the table,” said Swift. “Their continued feedback and guidance enables us to do our very best to meet our customers’ needs. As we embark on what we believe will be a transformative era for the UK energy industry, we are hugely grateful to be able to work in partnership with our stakeholders in shaping the next phase in our transition.”

To read the complete DSO strategy visit: