Smarter Grid Solutions turbocharges £15m electricity grid control system for UK Power Networks

Bob Currie, CTO of SGS
Bob Currie, CTO of SGS

Software designed by Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS) has been placed at the heart of the world’s most advanced electricity network control system, which is being rolled out by electricity distributor UK Power Networks.

UK Power Networks – which supplies energy to more than eight million homes and businesses in London, the South East and East of England, making it Great Britain’s biggest electricity distributor – will use SGS’s Active Network Management (ANM) Strata platform to run its new £15 million system.

SGS’s platform will enable more than 500MW of distributed energy resources (DERs) – including solar panels and wind turbines – to be connected to the grid cheaper and faster, generating enough power for 250,000 homes.

The ANM system will use innovative technology to process vast amounts of data to safely and more efficiently run the network, which is now supplied by more than 165,000 electricity producers.

By having the most complete view possible of everything that is happening on the network at any given moment, the system will make complex decisions autonomously to optimise the available power.

The system will cut the time it takes to connect DERs to the grid and reduce the need to build or upgrade infrastructure, which in turn will save money.

SGS’s technology allows UK Power Networks to deliver on a promise made last year to offer all customers flexible connections by 2020. It will enable them to connect solar and wind to the grid without having to pay for extra infrastructure, in return for agreeing to reduce their output occasionally to help balance supply and demand across the network.

ANM will support flagship innovation projects including Optimise Prime, which is the world’s largest commercial electric vehicle fleet demonstrator, and Active Response, which will show how spare power can be moved around the network to maximise capacity. It will also provide the market platform for “Flexibility Services” to implement the flexibility contract auction results recently reported.

Bob Currie, Chief Technology Officer at Glasgow-based SGS, said: “This is a watershed moment, not just for UK Power Networks but for the wider electricity industry.

“Building this system based on our ANM Strata platform will allow UK Power Networks to make the transition from being a passive distribution network operator (DNO) to a very active distribution system operator (DSO), trailblazing a path down which their British peers will follow.

“UK Power Networks will not only be leading the pack in the UK but will also be setting the pace internationally – many network operators in the United States and Europe will be watching these developments with interest as they too look to integrate more renewable energy into their grids and support the roll-out of electric vehicles.

“ANM Strata has been proven in commercial deployments at major international utilities across the world and will now allow UK Power Networks to optimise, control and manage DER.”

As part of the overall solution, consortium partner Nexant will supply control centre analytics from its “Grid360” platform for UK Power Networks’ new system, while Australian firm GreenSync’s “deX” product will be incorporated to provide a distributed energy marketplace.

Sotiris Georgiopoulos, Head of Smart Grid Development at UK Power Networks, said his company will be the first in the world to roll-out its advanced network control centre system across its entire network at all voltage levels, leap-frogging other companies that have only installed the technology on a limited basis.

He said: “We are creating a platform for the network of the future and we’re taking it further and faster than anyone in the world has done before. This business-as-usual project demonstrates that innovation is truly embedded in our business. Having ANM integrated into our entire network control system is going to open the door to an almost limitless range of smart grid applications.

“It’s going to function a bit like your smart phone and apps. Once we have the core platform ready, we’ll be able to add a vast number of smart applications to it without having to build and maintain individual platforms for individual projects. The fact it acts as a platform, as opposed to a solution to a specific problem, means it will be able to take advantage of emerging technologies around big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

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