Spotlight On: Harry Smith, Connections Manager at AMP

Harry Smith has a critical role to play in helping facilitate AMP’s growing portfolio of flexible energy facilities, supporting the UK’s journey towards net zero carbon emissions.

As Connections Manager, Harry ensures that the business identifies and installs the physical connections required for its flexible energy facilities across the UK. Harry tells us about his role and how he got into the energy field.

Tell me about your role at AMP

I am responsible for making sure that all of our energy projects have the right physical connection to the electricity or gas grids. This covers two main areas: development and delivery. In the development phase it means scoping out where is good for us to have a connection and what the economics of the project are. In the delivery phase it is more about making sure we establish the connection on time and within budget and that we have the right contractors working with us to the deliver the project.

Increasingly these days, I am also getting involved with flexible generation projects, working with the network operators to ensure that we get our flexible services connected in the best way for all concerned. Data analysis plays a big role in my work, particularly in this area, as it is what drives our decisions about what assets we develop and where.

What attracted you to AMP and the role of connections manager?

Before I joined AMP, I was already working in the field of solar energy during the boom years for solar that took off around 2010. I was doing similar work in that field, involving connections for renewable energy and specifically solar power generation. As the solar market reached something of a plateau, I wanted to get involved with the next big thing, and that looked like flexible generation. I was also attracted by the focus that AMP Clean Energy has: it specialises in flexible generation and concentrates on the UK market alone.  That appealed to me.

Why is flexible generation so important in the journey towards net zero carbon emissions?

It is amazing how solar and wind power have become central to power generation in this country and around the world in recent years, but renewable energy sources on their own can’t provide the stable electricity supply we have all come to rely on. Because the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine, there are times when the network needs other sources of energy in order to be able to meet the demand for power. This may be energy that has been stored in batteries, or it may be powered by other sources, but it is vital to the smooth running of the network. The march towards net zero carbon generation means that, as more people drive electric vehicles and install heat pumps in their homes, this demand will only increase. It is flexible generation that will top up the network when the demand is there and the renewable energy is not available.

What are the most exciting and challenging parts of your role?

In May last year, we secured our first contract to deliver 1.5MW of flexible generation over five years at Romney Warren in south east England for UK Power Networks, the distribution operator for the area. The contract was awarded by an auction, which was a first for UK Power Networks, and I led the search for the right location to provide the service that they required. We identified that demand for power was high and rising in the Romney Warren area and that we could build and run services to meet that demand in a way that would allow UK Power Networks to continue to meet its customers’ growing needs, without the expense and disruption of reinforcing its network.

Bidding in the auction was exciting. We have now entered and won eight auctions for UK Power Networks’ contracts and the process is getting better every time. For example, we now have a bit more time to prepare our bid than we did for the first auction. As we become more experienced identifying where opportunities lie, we are very often finding that those are the locations where the network operator is looking for services. An auction platform, called Piclo, sets out all the requirements for the auction and there is a mass of data available on which to base our bid. This is a competitive process so it is a matter of judgement for us to come up with the best price for the network, and of course it has to be at a level that is commercially sensible for us.

As well as your day job, you represent AMP on a number of DNO Scrutiny Panels. What does that involve?

This is an important part of my role. I am one of a number of industry representatives who give feedback to the DNOs about how they can improve their connections services to customers like us. It helps them to understand the customer experience and, for example, know more about the sort of information and data we need from them to help us position our sites. It helps us work collaboratively with them and we appreciate their efforts to understand us better.

How do you switch off from work?

I have an eight-month old son, so he keeps me and my wife Ola busy when we are not at work!