Network innovation scheme are starting to give a tangible feeling of what smart grid operation will be like, says Siemens' Colin Henry
The UK government has ambitious plans to achieve 30% fewer carbon emissions by 2020 than in 1990. To help ensure this happens, regulator Ofgem is challenging distribution network operators (DNOs) to be smarter, more innovative, more flexible and more responsive to customers’ changing needs. All the while ensuring that their operations represent good value for money.
Ofgem has established innovation funding streams to kick-start the radical change electricity networks must achieve to make the low-carbon energy sector a reality. The Low Carbon Network Fund (LCNF), for example, was established in 2010 and allocated up to £500 million over five years to encourage DNOs to engage with partners and develop smart grid expertise.
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As well as being a key partner to the Customer-Led Network Revolution Project, Siemens hyas also supported a broad range of other LCNF schemes including UK Power Networks' Low Carbon London Project, Western Power Distribution's Project Bristol and Electricity Northwest's Projects Class and Project Smart Street.
Siemens played an important role in the UK’s largest smart grid project, the Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR). Principally funded by £27 million from the LCNF, the project was led by Northern Powergrid, with support from British Gas, EA Technology and the Universities of Newcastle and Durham.
Northern Powergrid delivers electricity to 3.9 million homes and businesses in the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire. Working with more than 13,000 domestic, SME, industrial, commercial and distributed generation customers, the CLNR project has taught us important lessons on the uptake of low-carbon technologies such as solar PV, electric vehicles and heat pumps – and their likely impact on electricity networks.
The project trialled a range of novel network technologies, alongside flexible demand-side response, where consumers were asked to do something differently to reduce their consumption or turn on generation in response to a signal from the network operator for example, to better understand the long-term customer benefits offered by a smarter grid.
The CLNR project required a smart grid solution with an autonomous control system capable of optimising voltage control, energy storage, thermal rating and demand-side response across the network; and co-ordinating the operation of these technologies within the network. Siemens adapted its active network management system, Spectrum Power, to suit the CLNR’s needs. It was known as the Grand Unified Scheme (Gus). Spectrum Power technology takes a whole-system view of the network, combining, optimising and managing the constraints of the system’s multiple elements. This allows the network to operate as a smart grid, reducing the necessity for costly network extensions and upgrades.
The Gus is one of the most sophisticated active-network management systems to have been installed and operated on a live network. Northern Powergrid has trialled the technology to establish how effectively it can autonomously manage the network across its two main trial areas in Denwick, Northumberland and Rise Carr, Darlington, which serve about 13,000 and 10,000 customers respectively.
The Gus technology continually evaluates and reassesses network conditions, making it suitable for dealing with the more complex, dynamic electricity networks of the future. It could enable network operators to work with flexible customers to make the most of demand-side response measures, and help support the uptake of renewable energy sources, one of the biggest challenges faced by UK electricity networks in the next five to ten years.
Gus could also ultimately contribute to reducing customers’ energy bills by helping to make the most of existing network assets and minimising the need for network upgrades.
The CLNR successfully completed its study in December 2014, producing a rich body of research, recommendations and tools that will benefit electricity distribution network operators and their customers alike.
It has produced new knowledge that offers important insights for policymakers and the wider electricity industry, as we seek to address the challenges of a low-carbon future and ensure the development of smart grids continues to make effective progress. Colin Henry, head of digital grid systems, energy management division, Siemens UK