A New Smart Grid

Traditionally the UK’s electricity network has been a one way supply with a number of large power stations generating electricity and supplying it to the grid. The rise of renewable energy generation from more numerous small scale installations plus a rise in demand for power for electric vehicles however has created a demand for the new smart grid capable of operating efficiently in the 21st century.

SP Energy Networks, one of the UK’s network operators is currently in the process of developing new technologies which will help create this smart grid. Other network operators including SSE Networks and UK Power Networks are also involved and all believe smart technologies could help create mini regional energy markets across the country in addition to the national transmission system. Under the cross industry plans, power from solar panels on properties or from electric vehicles could be sold back to the network, or even directly to neighbours using block-chain technology.

For example a new type of network power transformer transformer, the LV engine project, which can closely control network voltage and power flow and can provide a direct current (DC) power supply – essential for electric vehicle charging – and developed by SP Energy Networks will go through a five year trial funded by Ofgem. LV Engine will be delivered by SP Energy Networks in collaboration with fellow electricity network operator UK Power Networks.

SP Energy Networks will also lead a separate research scheme called FUSION to be trialled in the East Fife area. The project will create the UK’s first intelligent local energy marketplace where energy flexibility can be bought and sold by consumers in an open and competitive market.

Jim McOmish, SP Energy Networks Head of Distribution Networks, said: “Business and residential customers are seeking to maximise the efficiency and lower the cost of their energy use, and the flexibility of their demand for energy is a marketable commodity.

“At the moment there is no open accessible transparent market to buy and sell this flexibility, and the challenge is building one which unlocks that value for everybody – electricity providers on one side and consumers on the other.”

This project could see consumer savings of over £200million and carbon emission reductions of over 3million tonnes.

Frank Mitchell, CEO of SP Energy Networks, said: “These globally innovative projects will enable customers to be fully engaged in the electricity market, creating additional income through local generation and storage, whilst unlocking additional network capacity to make a truly nationwide network of electric vehicles a reality.

“I am delighted to secure this additional funding on behalf of our customers. These awards, which come hot on the heels of another recent Ofgem funding award to roll out the latest network monitoring and control technology in the Dumfries & Galloway area, demonstrate our continued leadership in commercial and technical innovation together with our ongoing ambition and capability to innovate in the best interests of our customers, communities and wider stakeholders.”

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) said Wednesday’s plan is the culmination of almost a year of small-scale trials and marks the start of a “rapid increase” in energy mini-markets in the next six years.

David Smith, boss of the ENA, said the overhaul will help networks to meet the challenge of balancing more complicated energy systems, provide a cash boost to customers, and deliver a £17bn benefit to the UK economy in the coming decades. The economic benefit could rise to as high as £40billion according to Government estimates.

Without doubt there is an energy revolution on the way. The increase in use of electric vehicles is expected to sky rocket over the coming years with traditional petrol and diesel based vehicles being phased out around the globe. As this happens not only will demand rise but the ability to store it will also.

All this demands a new smart grid to ensure that the electricity can flow as readily as needed and stored efficiently when not. The new technologies and projects proposed are therefore very welcome. The long term advantages of creating a new smart grid network will benefit us all and open up more clean, renewable and less expensive electricity to all of us.

 

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