UK electricity company powers ahead with smart grid

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The £83 million Smart Grid Enablers programme is scheduled for completion in 2023

The smart grid aims to provide solutions that could save £500m by 2031

The smart grid aims to provide solutions that could save £500m by 2031

UK electrical distribution company, Northern Powergrid, has begun the next phase of work to future-proof more than 860 of its substation controllers for the implementation of smart grid solutions. It claims to be the country’s most comprehensive network upgrade programme and is part of the utility’s Smart Grid Enablers programme.

It aims to create the backbone of a smart grid and will support the North’s ambitions to put low-carbon technology at the centre of its economy. The solutions it enables could reportedly save up to £500 million by 2031. This phase of the programme is scheduled to complete in 2023.


Next generation smart grid solutions

Northern Powergrid’s £83 million Smart Grid Enablers programme, is preparing its regional economy for rapid growth of electric vehicles, domestic heat pumps and renewable power.


The Smart Substations project will see Northern Powergrid work with ZIV Automation UK to replace the substation remote terminal unit (RTU) equipment and establish a modern platform for the implementation of next generation smart grid solutions and applications.

“This is a significant and technically challenging operation drawing on many of our highly specialist technical functions across the business,” said Mark Nicholson, head of Smart Grid Implementation at Northern Powergrid. “It has been an impressive team effort between Northern Powergrid and ZIV Automation UK to get us to this stage. The advantage at the end of this work will be infrastructure that will enable us to operate our network in a more flexible way to deliver more value for our customers through smarter, more efficient and cost-effective services.”

The RTU acts as an interface to the electrical plant within a substation, marshalling alarms, plant status and analogue data (such as voltage, current and power information) and communicating with control engineers via the network management system. The RTU directs the digital control commands from the control engineer to operate equipment such as circuit breakers and tap changers within the substation, while also providing the platform for more advanced control schemes within the substation.


Customer-led transition

Northern Powergrid operates 8,000 substations across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, delivering power to 3.9 million homes and businesses in the region. It is currently laying the foundations of its customer-led transition to become a distributed system operator (DSO), and this work will form a key part of that change.

Earlier this month it also announced a number of internal initiatives that will help it get ‘hands on’ with electric vehicles (EVs) and charging infrastructure, building on insights from its customer-led Network Revolution programme.


“At the end of this work will be infrastructure that will enable us to operate our network in a more flexible way”

Key initiatives will be implemented in 2018 to give Northern Powergrid’s 2,500 employees the chance to engage with new EV technology across several of its 28 sites. It will also use the opportunity to observe both how its employees interact with the EVs and the resulting impact on the network to unveil possibilities for how EV owners and the supporting infrastructure might operate in reality.

As part of the initiative, Northern Powergrid is investing in installing new EV charging points at 11 of its sites. The aim is to encourage employees to go electric well ahead of the 2040 ban on new diesel and petrol car sales.

This will be supported by a second initiative to install on-site vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging points that will not only boost the number of EV chargers available, but will also contribute to a trial of best use of V2G in fleet operations. Installation for the first of 16 V2G chargers will begin this month.

Northern Powergrid will also begin a process of fleet electrification, starting with its pool cars and is undertaking a survey of EV ownership in the business to ensure the growing EV driver base has the right infrastructure, breaking down barriers to adoption across its own workforce.

Source: Smart Cities World