Future Networks Forum

The purpose of the Future Networks Forum (FNF) is to harness the collective power of the distribution sector to help Aotearoa reach its climate change goals. 

 

The FNF identifies opportunities where Electricity Distribution Businesses (EDBs) can align to help Aotearoa reach our climate change goals and create value for customers. Below is a short summary of the initiatives that are currently being worked on.  

 

The FNF is co-chaired by Sam Elder from Orion and James Tipping from Vector and the group is made up of representatives from across 23 lines companies.  

 

New EDB members are encouraged to join the Future Networks Forum so we can form a comprehensive view of opinions from across all our lines companies. If you are from an EDB, and you want to find out more, please email us at FNF@electricity.org.nz. 

 

  • ENA members can login to the full FNF pages here.
  • A slide pack summarising FNF's overall objectives, structure and current activities can be viewed here.

 

If you’d like to hear more about the FNF – or a particular project – email FNF@electricity.org.nz

 

Innovation forums 

 

The FNF run three innovation forums per year. These are two day forums to engage with the sector and have valuable kōrero about each of the projects and their progress. These are generally held in Wellington (with an online option).

 

All ENA members are welcome to attend. Our next forums are pencilled in for 2-3 July, and 13-14 November. More details including agendas and RSVP forms will be available soon.

 

a picture of people listing to a presenter at our second innovation forum

 

A picture from our second innovation forum in March 2024

 

Current FNF initiatives 

 

Roles and functions to enable distributed flexibility  

 

The adoption of consumer and distributed energy resources (e.g. solar panels and battery systems) is driving changes in the way EDBs plan and operate their networks. EDBs will need to undertake new functions and roles to support use of these resources in a smart and flexible way.

To help with this, this project is set to improve understanding and alignment between EDBs on the roles, functions and industry architecture to enable distributed flexibility.

The first stage will define the roles and functions and use common terminology. To inform this, the project has done international research and is engaging with EDBs to capture a whole of New Zealand EDB view. The next steps will be collaborating with the wider sector to seek input on roles and functions and ensure we produce outputs that add real value to the whole sector. A second stage will consider different industry architecture to fulfil these roles and functions and the impact of these on EDBs.

We highlighted this work in our submission to the Electricity Authority on the Future System Operator, and have encouraged the Authority to consider this work as they evolve their thinking.

  

Customer segmentation  

 

We’re building a shared understanding and common language amongst EDBs about who our customers are, their current and future needs, and the pain points in their customer journeys – which EDBs may be well-placed to address. This is a core foundational piece, and will ensure a customer-centric approach to FNF’s ongoing prioritisation and work programme. 

  

Connections journey mapping

 

The 'Connections Journey Mapping’ project aims to align EDBs to improve the connections journey for both customers and EDBs.

 

The project members are working closely with the Electricity Engineers Association and the Electricity Authority (who are also doing work in this space) to ensure that we don’t duplicate work, and the projects align nicely so we can create real improvements in the customer connections journey at pace.

Over the last month, the team met with representatives of charge point operators, large-generation customers and EDBs to fully understand their pain points and discuss potential solutions. Next steps include further engagement and to gather feedback from customers on potential solutions and how we prioritise these.

The plan is to deliver the ‘quick win’ solutions first, and develop a delivery plan for the longer-term deliverables.

 

Image of customer journey for a large connection

  

Flexibility opportunities project    

 

This initiative is exploring commercial mechanisms and enhancing an initial evaluation calculator for flexibility projects, developed by Wellington Electricity and Orion through their Resi-Flex project. The FNF project is identifying potential additional commercial mechanisms and developing a standardised assessment framework for EDBs to compare traditional (infrastructure) network solutions with non-network flexibility solutions. 

  

Development of aligned solutions  

 

Workstream 3 of the FNF is called 'aligned solutions' and currently has three initiatives underway:   

 

  1. develop consistent approaches to sharing DER information between EDBs and other parties  
  2. explore the evolving role of HWC load control and investigate DER data exchange needs between EDB↔SO 
  3. investigate how EDBs enable optimised EV charging.  

 

The mahi kicked off last year with a survey of existing and future practices by New Zelaand EDBs, and then an international survey and round of interviews which has just been completed. Depending on the requirements of the large connection process project, the next steps in this work are benchmarking and compiling a summary report and next steps.    

  

Outreach with purpose 

 

Across all of these projects, we are constantly assessing who our key stakeholders are to ensure we are engaging, listening and collaborating as well as we can externally. We have a 12-month view of FNF deliverables, and this will help us make decisions about content for future Innovation Forums, speakers, and workshop topics.