Next generation automation

Automation of power distribution is about to take a leap forward, says Schneider Electric’s John Langley-Davis.

Next generation automation

For decades the UK has been sweating its power assets. Ageing and cheap thermal power stations have provided plentiful, “always on” power with comfortable capacity margins over peak demand. As the industry privatised, profitable provision of cheap energy from maturing assets was more palatable than investment and renewal.  

This couldn’t last. Indigenous North Sea oil and gas production has fallen faster and harder than expected. Our infrastructure is at capacity and has begun to look out of step with the growing mood for cleaning up energy supply.

Tomorrow’s solution today


Advanced monitoring, control, and automation functions can read data from internet-connected sensors and meters to reveal how the grid is performing, and how it can be made more efficient, without the risk of it falling over.

Schneider Electric’s Easergy T300 Remote Terminal Unit (RTU) is an application building block for Medium Voltage and Low Voltage public distribution network management. It offersn a single solution for control and monitoring.

 The T300 solves the evolving challenges of the grid and helps businesses prepare for the future by:

• Managing bidirectional and intermittent power flow

• Improving the grid’s availability, quality and efficiency through stability and optimising networks to respond to increasing energy demand

• Reducing installation, operation, training and maintenance costs

• Improving cyber security and defending against malicious

software and unauthorised access

Renewable energy sources are one of the answers to the UK’s capacity problem connecting these sources of clean energy while maintaining security of supply and affordability presents a quandary – and one which will clearly require investment to overcome.

Necessity, however, is the mother of invention. While there are clear challenges and fundamental shifts to renewable sources we cannot overlook the huge opportunities in smarter energy. 

Two-thirds of energy is lost in the generation and transmission of electricity. Flexibly managing demand has a far greater impact than new sources of capacity. Focus has to go, therefore, on better managing of demand with intelligent technology and market signals.

Our response needs to be smarter and more efficient to bring demand back under control.

The renewables market is particularly complex to handle. Energy enters the grid at both a transmission and distribution level, across medium and low voltage levels, in a relatively uncontrolled manner. So, it’s essential that accurate, real-time power and current levels are available.

Investment in grid automation means we have been steadily enhancing reliability and optimised network performance. This minimises interruptions for DNOs.

As we wait for the new government to turn its attention to the potential of demand flexibility and test schemes for energy saving, there is a new era of automation products waiting in the wings.

Enhanced to handle this new environment, these technologies challenge existing distribution network operation issues in both overhead and underground electrical distribution networks.


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