Network innovation funding should be judged a success based on the quality of the evidence generated rather than business as usual (BAU) adoption.
There is limited evidence that Low Carbon Network Fund projects are able to transition to BAU in the short-term, due to the technology readiness level of many of the projects being undertaken, according to the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC).
The UKERC said, in a review conducted with Hubnet into the outcomes of the LCNF, that many projects included prototype development and academic modelling, suggesting lower technology readiness levels (TRL) than set out in the LCNF governance, inhibiting the ability to be adopted in the short-term as BAU.
It said: “We do not see the focus on lower TRL innovation and lack of transition to BAU as a negative per se; the critical aspect is the quality of evidence that can be expected and what kinds of decisions this subsequently informs.”
The report added that the funding has kickstarted an important revival in research, development and demonstration by electricity distribution operators, which has delivered “significant learning” and potential for network cost reduction and improvements in service.
It said that without the funding innovation is likely to have been “stagnant at best and non-existent at worst” and recommends support is continued so network operators can consolidate their position as leading research into smart grids.
UKERC co-director Keith Bell said: “The electricity networks… face major challenges from changes to the generation mix and future demand for electricity for heating and transport. The challenges aren’t insurmountable but they need to be met cost-effectively.
“The LCNF has been extremely important in re-energising the network companies’ interests in innovation and providing a platform for finding out what things should be done differently.”