UK Power Networks is claiming a world first by installing next generation circuit breakers in part of London's electricity network, estimating significant cost and carbon savings due to their ability to facilitate the connection of Combined Heat and Power systems.
It has installed the new Fault Limiting Circuit Breaker (FLCB) device, designed by ABB, at a substation in Tower Hamlets, east London (engineers Jack McKellar and John Moutafadis are pictured above).
The technology was developed by UK Power Networks with the help of an Ofgem-funded Network Innovation Competition grant.
The FLCBs, also known as Powerful-CB devices, can detect and protect from a fault on the electricity network in just four-thousands of a second, 20 times faster than any existing circuit breakers.
They can also be operated by UK Power Networks engineers remotely, meaning that the lights can be turned back on faster should a fault occur.
Trials will continue until 2021 to gather data on the Powerful-CB devices' performance in different configurations.
Lowering the cost of connecting smaller-scale energy generation like CHP is a key component in providing a low-carbon, secure and affordable future for London
Ian Cameron, head of innovation, UK Power Networks
The new circuit breakers will make it easier and cheaper to connect low-carbon energy technologies, and specifically CHP units, to the network.
As a result, the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) says that financial savings by 2050 could amount to £400m, and the reduction in the capital's CO2 emissions would be equivalent to the eliminating a year's worth of emissions from 800,000 diesel or petrol-powered vehicles.
The DNO says that efficient CHP systems are becoming more popular in big city hospitals and similar facilities, and can play a crucial role in district heating and community energy projects.
The Greater London Authority has set a target for CHP capacity to rise by 500% over the next 15 years, to 1.7 GW.
UK Power Networks' investment means that it will be able to facilitate this while spending less money on physical infrastructure upgrades.
The super-fast circuit breakers are a quarter of the size and half the price of the current limiters being used, and the resulting financial savings would be driven by the ability to connect an additional 460MW of distributed generation.
Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks, said the project showed the business is driving change in the industry: "Through innovative technology, we are making it easier for a generation of environmentally-friendly, cost-efficient energy. Lowering the cost of connecting smaller-scale energy generation like CHP is a key component in providing a low-carbon, secure and affordable future for London."
The Energy Unlocked consultancy is administering the Greater London Assembly's FlexLondon programme, which aims to offer 1 GW of flexibility by 2050.
Chief executive Molly Webb said: "The GLA's FlexLondon programme is seeing exciting new technologies and business models poised for market entry that make a flexible, 100% carbon free energy system possible.
"We need the continuous innovation that UK Power Network is demonstrating in order to accelerate their adoption, and bring all Londoners better energy, faster."