Our highlights from Utility Week Live 2018

By Joe Wild, Operations Director

At the end of May, myself and the MW Polymers team joined leading industry professionals at Utility Week Live (UWL), co-located with edie Live. For anyone working within the utilities sector, UWL is a must-attend event in the calendar. It’s a fantastic platform to see the latest projects, collaborations, innovations and developments while networking with experts from a range of backgrounds.

UWL is an important event in general and for us as a company. Aside from the fact some of our biggest customers operate within the utilities sector, it’s a great opportunity to meet the teams behind the most innovative projects happening right now. We know as well as anyone how challenging long-term projects can be, so it’s great when they come to fruition.

The two-day conference saw a record number of visitors, exhibitors and speakers. The key topics covered included; PR19, RIIO2, decarbonisation, technology (IoT, drones, AI, Blockchain, getting the most out of Big Data and everything in between), and of course, the future. The range of keynote topics this year highlights the overlap in priorities regardless of the utility and illustrates the broad array of challenges being faced. To tackle such issues, the industry is constantly looking for the latest and greatest innovations.

There were two standout projects for us, project GRAID and FREEDOM.

Project GRAID is a collaboration between National Grid and three SMEs; Synthotech, Premtech Ltd and Pipeline Integrity Engineers (PIE). Described as a ‘gas robotic agile inspection device’, it has been designed to negotiate complex pipework systems while under extreme pressures, to reduce asset maintenance costs. I particularly liked the different robotic designs that were on display as part of the exhibit as it allowed attendees to see the evolution of the project. In our industry, there must be a degree of flexibility – things are constantly in flux and evolving so it’s important to be responsive to change.

FREEDOM (Flexible Residential Energy Efficiency Demand Optimisation and Management) is another collaborative project. It brings together Wales & West Utilities, Western Power Distribution (WPD) and PassivSystems. The project aims to create a commercial hybrid system linking both gas and electricity networks to support the decarbonisation of power. FREEDOM is currently being trialled in Bridgend and is assessing the pros and cons of using a hybrid system and whether it can reduce household bills and emissions without compromising the supply to customers.

It’s hard to pick a single key takeaway from an event packed with new and exciting ideas, but clearly collaboration is key within our industry. Whether that involves working with suppliers, contractors or even competitors – the future is collaboration. Bringing together a variety of people with different skill sets, experiences and knowledge is arguably the only way to overcome the increasingly complex challenges faced by the utilities networks.

Shared goals such as streamlining the networks, which will benefit consumers and business alike, requires input from a broad spectrum of people – it is not a challenge that can be overcome alone. The ongoing investments being made to the networks – upgrades, repairs, maintenance – must be done, but the emphasis is increasingly being placed on innovation. How can we ensure everything is working as efficiently, cost-effectively and smoothly as possible? Solutions that make the most of the latest technological advancements and make a difference to every day operations are essential.

We’ll be attending a number of events throughout 2018 and beyond, follow us on Twitter @MW_Polymers to find out more!