An electricity network control system being installed by Smarter Grid Solutions, Nexant and GreenSync has been hailed by independent analysts at consultancy firm Wood Mackenzie as “among the most advanced in the world”, with implications for utility companies across Europe, the United States, Australia and rest of the world.
Software designed by the three companies is being brought together to control the electricity networks run by UK Power Networks, which covers 8 million customers in London, East Anglia and the South-East of England.
The active network management (ANM) system will allow UK Power Networks to connect more distributed energy resources (DERs) – such as renewable energy devices, energy storage batteries and electric vehicle charging points – to its network by better balancing supply and demand, reducing the need for expensive physical upgrades to the grid’s wires, substations and other infrastructure.
The system will allow renewable energy devices such as solar panels and wind turbines to be connected to the grid more quickly and in greater quantities, helping the UK to reach its legally-binding 2050 net-zero carbon dioxide reduction target.
In addition, the system will enable the forecasting, analysis, and dispatch of innovative advanced power electronic devices - soft open points and soft power bridges - to provide further flexibility in balancing supply and demand on congested circuits.
Francesco Menonna, the analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables’ Grid Edge team who wrote the report, said: “UK Power Networks plans to use the ANM system as its default tool for network operations, grid planning and customer engagement – as opposed to the piecemeal approach to incorporating DERs adopted by many utilities in the United States and Europe.
“UK Power Networks has committed to making non-wires alternatives its default approach to network reinforcements, and the ANM system will be instrumental for this.
“Utilities in the United States and Australia have also been working to develop non-wires alternatives, even though results have been less encouraging than in the UK.
“None have developed a platform to harness DERs for short-term flexibility needs in the style of UK Power Networks.
“Utilities should keep an eye on UK Power Networks’ system as it rolls out, while vendors can use UK Power Networks as a positive example in discussions with utilities.
“Building a platform to connect and manage DERs on their networks will be increasingly important for distribution utilities around the world as the penetration of intermittent and distributed generation, energy storage and EVs increases.”
Smarter Grid Solutions’ ANM Strata program sits at the heart of the system, along with Nexant’s Grid360 and iEnergy for analytics, and GreenSync’s deX back-end marketplace.
Alan Gooding, executive director at Smarter Grid Solutions, said: “Widespread use of flexibility services coordinating the needs of networks and markets is the next big industry step in the journey to net zero; we are delighted to be helping UK Power Networks be a leader in that transition”
John Dirkman, Vice President Product Management at Nexant, said: “Data analytics has a key role to play in tackling climate change and it’s very exciting to be breaking new ground with this combined system.”
Doug Cook, head of GreenSync’s European team, said: “Flexibility is the future for major utilities. Using a digital market to procure small changes in behaviour from the many privately owned distributed energy resources – solar, electric vehicles, batteries, flexible loads and so on – will help UK Power Networks keep the lights on for everyone at the lowest cost.”
Sotiris Georgiopoulos, head of smart grid development at UK Power Networks, added: “A flexible energy system can deliver significant benefits for our customers. We made a commitment to work with industry to develop enabling technology, and now we are seeing the results of that engagement. We are honoured to have this independent endorsement of the system we are building, and to have its implications for the global power industry acknowledged.”