New players pose risk to power system

"A host of new players" in the power system pose a risk to its stability if government does not act to help co-ordinate their integration, experts have warned.

New players pose risk to power system

Commenting on the findings of the second phase of the government sponsored Future Power System Architecture (FPSA) programme, project delivery board chair Simon Harrison, said the power sector is evolving rapidly as diverse new participants and technologies emerge.

“Without the necessary co-ordination, there is a real risk that these developments will have adverse impacts on the power system”.

He added that apps, smart meters and automation are now enabling customers to participate directly in the system.

But, he warned: “Without the necessary co-ordination, there is a real risk that these developments will have adverse impacts on the power system, leading to lost whole-system opportunities, and potential incompatibilities in the way that technology is implemented and the way that markets operate.

“There is currently no shared vision or even shared understanding of how to bring all the elements together in a way that addresses whole-system issues and is efficient, effective, secure and reliable.”

Harrison called on the government to step into this arena and become a “catalyst” for change.

“All parties, including customer representatives, now need to come together as a whole to create that vision and, with the catalyst of government, put in place the mechanisms that will make it a reality,” he said.

The FPSA project is a government-sponsored investigation of the technical needs of the future power system. The Institution of Engineering and Technology has been tasked with delivering the investigation in partnership with the Energy Systems Catapult.

The first phase of the programme, which reported last year, identified 35 functions across eight broad categories, which the power system of the future will need to fulfil.

Among other things, the second phase sought to identify, and establish a process to overcome, the main barriers to the delivery of these functions.

A series of reports produced for the second stage state that: “The highest priority barriers are those associated with existing industry governance processes, the regulatory framework, the commercial framework and the extent of technical change required.”

The existing industry code governance, for example, is “not sufficiently agile or flexible to respond to the degree and pace of future change envisaged”.

When it comes to regulation, licensing arrangements fail to account for new parties and business models – such as community energy schemes – and there are no mechanisms or incentives in place to encourage cross-sector investments.

On the technical side, there is a lack of whole-systems modelling and forecasting, and it is insufficiently granular to enable the effective co-ordination of planning and operation.

Commercial arrangements can “sometimes act counter to core policy objectives,” said the phase two documents.

“Today’s power sector change governance mechanisms have neither the scope nor the agility to ensure the timely delivery of the new functions,” they add.

“This has potentially significant consequences for system security, sustainability and cost-effectiveness, ultimately risking delivery of GB energy policy.”

The reports call for the creation of a raft of “enabling frameworks” to help deliver the 35 functions, either individually or in groups.

These enabling frameworks would be overseen and coordinated by an enablement organisation and supported by multiple networks of stakeholders. They would themselves be grouped into “common enabling frameworks” where individual functions form part of a wider purpose. 

Energy Systems Catapult head of innovation Eric Brown said: “New energy solutions, including cross-vector developments in the future, depend upon the contribution of researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs.

“The framework changes identified by FPSA are key to enabling these parties to engage with the sector to deliver and deploy new thinking, not just in demonstrations, but importantly at scale.” 


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