A Smart Grid for all

In the future, anyone will be able to be a producer and a consumer of energy. Low carbon technology like electric vehicles, renewable energy, commercial or domestic storage and heat pumps are set to revolutionise the air quality of our towns and cities. UK Power Networks is committed to being an enabler of this revolution, while we continue keeping our customers lights on safely at the lowest possible cost.

The Five Pillars

Our Future Network Priorities

PRIORITY 1

Facilitate cheaper and quicker connections using proven innovation
Continue rollout of Flexible DG that uses Active Network Management

PRIORITY 2

Use customer flexibility as an
alternative to network upgrades

Run market tenders for flexibility services such as Demand Side Response

PRIORITY 3

Develop enhanced System Operator capabilities
Develop TSO – DSO Commercial Framework, DER Dispatch capability and readiness for smart meters

PRIORITY 4

Collaborate with industry to enable GB wide benefits
Actively participate in industry forums to make this transition a reality

PRIORITY 5

Prepare and facilitate the uptake of electric vehicles
Enable connections using smart solutions and ensure business readiness

How we work

We are making it cheaper and quicker for renewable energy to connect to our network, helping to make the case for investment in clean technology and encouraging the growth of more renewables.

We are setting out to make complex service offerings as simple and transparent as possible, allowing everyone, from domestic customers through to prosumers and big business, the opportunity to participate. To do this we worked with our stakeholders to help develop a simple, but effective campaign – ‘a smart grid for all’. This initiative used a multichannel approach to reach more than 31,000 potential customers, broken down by:

  • 95 industry stakeholders at flagship event
  • 3,873 unique microsite page views
  • 68 pieces of external coverage
  • 8,083 views of video post on LinkedIn
  • 19,193 reach of launch blog post
  • 257 mentions of #smartgrid and #futuresmart
  • 32 consultation forms
  • 30 engagement events

This initiatives shows the breadth of engagement we have undertaken in what is a fundamental change for the industry, allowing stakeholders a crucial voice during the transition.

From DNO to DSO

UK Power Networks is the first electricity network in the UK to launch a strategy detailing our transition from Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to Distribution System Operator (DSO). The five pillars of our DSO Strategy provide an overview of our approach, and you can download the full report at the link below.

The changing electricity system provides opportunities for network operators to manage and develop the energy system in new ways. The transition to a Distribution System Operator (DSO) involves using flexible demand and generation to support the planning and operation of the smart grid. Through use of open and transparent local markets, we shall procure this flexibility to deliver reliable supplies at efficient cost for our customers. In 2018 we became the first network operator in the UK to commit to a ‘Flexibility First’ approach. This means we will seek to procure flexible energy services as the default option to reinforcing or upgrading our assets, as long as it is the most cost-efficient option for our customers.

Our Flexibility Roadmap is available to download at the link below, and we have continued to push the boundaries. This year we have awarded £30m of contracts for 350MW of flexible power from our spring 2021 Flex Tender – our biggest ever flexibility tender award. This is almost three times more volume than was procured in 2020. We awarded contracts at 137 zones including 77 high voltage zones and 60 low voltage zones.

Download our Flexibility Roadmap document

Our Key Capabilities

Monitoring and Control

In order to manage our increasingly complex networks to make them as efficient as possible, we are developing a range of sophisticated ways to capture and analyse the data they produce.  These enable us to coordinate with other elements of the electricity infrastructure and to optimise the available resources to provide a cost-effective, environmentally friendly power supply to our customers. The more streamlined and responsive our network is, the more efficiently it runs: which means cost savings for our customers.

Constellation

The energy industry is at the heart of the UK`s journey to Net Zero as more consumers shift their behaviour and increase their reliance on electricity. Consu…

The energy industry is at the heart of the UK`s journey to Net Zero as more consumers shift their behaviour and increase their reliance on electricity. Consumers will depend on electricity to heat, eat and move, in addition to keeping the lights on. It is therefore essential to increase the whole electricity system’s resilience. We must do this cost effectively
Technology is evolving at a rapid pace and UK Power Networks recognise the opportunities this presents to enhance our resilience and facilitate Net Zero at the lowest cost for consumers. In order to overcome the complications we are leveraging the latest advances in 5G communication and software engineering to enhance our local substations by making them more intelligent, digital, interoperable and enable secure, scalable communication between them.

Constellation achieves this through a flexible and future proofed system for local intelligence working in partnership with our existing central systems. There are two distinct Methods:

  • Method 1: Local ANM – Local network optimisation at the substation level to provide resilience to DER operation against loss of communication with the central systems.
  • Method 2: Wide area and adaptive protection:
    • Provide resilience to DG operation against instability events triggering the conventional generator protection. We will develop sophisticated protection algorithms to identify when the DER should disconnect, if events have caused islanded operation. This will rely on low latency communications via 5G slicing.
    • Dynamically assessed protection settings and enhanced wide area control to enable more capacity for DER to connect. We will develop the ability to provide real time protection settings from the substation to dynamically validate and modify them.

Constellation paves the way to demonstrating a robust distributed control architecture that combines the benefits of centralised situational awareness and network state verification with local fast-acting control and protection. This takes forward the innovations and learning from previous and live projects (as well as commercial state of the art solutions and integrates new functionality in the substation environment.

Constellation is the first live demonstration of its kind and the first demonstration of wide area-based protection applied in a distribution network setting.

We expect the pace of technology development to continue with further improvements to low carbon technologies like EVs, photovoltaics and storage. Our previous work in Unified Protection and Radio Teleprotection projects laid the foundations of our local system enhancement. At the same time, our consumers are also changing their behaviour and energy consumption and are transitioning to a more active prosumer role with technologies like V2G. Constellation is our way to manage our network to enable these changes. It will kick-start an ecosystem where consumers, developers and providers work in a collaborative environment to meet the industry needs, and secondly to generate learning that the aforementioned stakeholders can utilise to refine their development, testing and adoption processes.

Constellation’s multi-sector collaboration builds new, cost effective solutions to resolve current and future challenges with the transition to Net Zero.

  • 1.98GVA of capacity for more low carbon generation couldbe released by 2030 by deploying Constellation across GB.
    • Rolling out Constellation across GB would save customers a total of £111m by 2030 through reducing volume of flexibility services required or deferring network reinforcement and virtualisation of solutions which are traditionally installed as bespoke hardware; and
    • Rolling out Constellation across GB could also facilitate an additional £21m of revenue due to the reduction in curtailment.
  • At its core, Constellation is about cross-industry innovation to enable Net Zero. Constellation has the potential to greatly reduce carbon emissions by enabling more low carbon DG to connect, as well as reducing the curtailment of existing DG. We estimate that roll-out Constellation across GB can provide up to 1.9m tCO2 of carbon savings by 2030.

Dr Federico Coffele, R&D Director, from the Power Networks Demonstration Centre said: “This announcement is very exciting for the industry and will help us to develop and trial the next generation of digital substations, which will be a huge step forward for the industry. This solution will enable faster and more cost-effective development and deployment of smart solutions.”

Andrea Dona, chief network officer at Vodafone UK, said: “Helping customers achieve ambitious net zero targets is part of our strategy. The team at UK Power Networks has seen the huge potential of 5G and network slicing. 5G is not only replacing older and more expensive technologies, it is bringing about new capabilities that benefit everyone – consumers, businesses, and the environment.”

 

Active Network Management

In May 2019, UK Power Networks unveiled plans to create the world’s most advanced electricity network control system. Over the last two years, UK Power Net…

In May 2019, UK Power Networks unveiled plans to create the world’s most advanced electricity network control system. Over the last two years, UK Power Networks has been developing foundational capabilities as part of the Active Network Management (ANM) program that includes both technological and organisational capabilities. The initial capability is enabling the business to acclerate the integration of the flexible Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) requiring monitoring and control of the constrained part of the network. This will evolve to a more advanced system where the ANM will be able to monitor bigger part of the network to gain the most complete view possible of everything that is happening on the network at any given moment. This will enable the ANM to autonomously make complex decisions to optimise the flow of available power. The future ANM will leverage all the available network data by using advanced solutions such as dynamic load flow, state estimation, contingency analysis and optimisation to make more accurate network control decisions.

The Active Network Management system processes vast amounts of data to be able to run the South East of England’s increasingly dynamic network – that is now host to more than 170,000 electricity producers – both safely and more efficiently.  With ANM we have enabled connections over 3GW of flexible connections and are seeing benefits such as reducing the need for building or upgrading existing infrastructure, speeding up new connections, enabling new markets and flexibility services.

ANM adopts a modular and scalable architecture to host emerging applications including market based DER services. Functioning like the operating system on your smart phone, it enables us to offer a large range of new products and financial opportunity for connected energy resources.

Distributed generation customers can now connect to the network an average of six months, or 115 working days, quicker thanks to ANM – that’s 60% faster than in 2018.

ANM quotes save customers on average 50% to 75% of the traditional connection cost, saving £72.5m and facilitating 250MW+ renewables through flexible connections – one of the ‘apps’ made possible by ANM – since 2015.

SCADA and Operational Telecoms

We are developing a toolbox of smart solutions to enable the uptake of low carbon technologies at the lowest possible cost to our customers. This includes ou…

We are developing a toolbox of smart solutions to enable the uptake of low carbon technologies at the lowest possible cost to our customers. This includes our Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS), which is responsible for the control and monitoring of all aspects of the distribution networks including secondary substations. It also includes any other points on the LV networks where automated equipment is installed. In addition, we operate Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) communications networks. The principal function of the SCADA network is to enable communication between the central OT systems such as the ADMS, and the remote devices that monitor and control the distribution networks.

Active Respose

Active Response will deliver two physical smart asset solutions, also known as Power Electronic Devices (PEDs), which can provide a range of benefits includi…

Active Response will deliver two physical smart asset solutions, also known as Power Electronic Devices (PEDs), which can provide a range of benefits including the deferral of costly network reinforcement. The project will also deliver an advanced optimisation and automation platform which will be part of a larger Active Network Management (ANM) platform. The SOP and SPB can control power flows, fault levels and voltages on the LV and HV networks respectively. In order to maximise network capacity, the ANM platform will optimise the network configuration through changing open points on the network and also optimise the behaviour of the SOPs and SPBs.

 

The trials demonstrated that for the first time more than 500 electric vehicle chargers could be connected around a single electricity substation using the technology rather than building new cables and substations. Active Response was able to process vast amounts of data and use switches to automatically reconfigure power flows around the network, efficiently distributing electrical load across the available infrastructure. The project could save customers across the UK £271m in reinforcement costs, approximately £9.34 from every customer’s bill, by 2030. As well as reducing reinforcement costs, the project will help reduce overloading on circuits; this in turn will reduce Customer Interruptions (CI) and Customer Minutes Lost (CML), the key parameters for measuring the frequency and duration of power cuts experienced by customers.

 

Symon Brown, account director at CGI, said: “CGI are proud to be a partner on Active Response. As a team, we have come a long way in informing how a rapidly changing energy network will operate in the future.  We have had some impressive results, and as the transition to Net Zero will be enabled through projects like this, it is evident that Active Response is an important step along the way.”

Sarah Carter, UK business area manager at Ricardo Energy & Environment, said: “We are very pleased to continue to support the UK electricity supply industry in delivering cutting edge innovation projects such as the Active Response project. They are learning from commissioning state-of-the-art software that processes network data to determine optimal running arrangements and gives distribution network operators and other stakeholders valuable insights into the offline trials before the project moves into the online trial stage as new controllable power electronic devices and switches are installed on the live network.”

Active Response also featured on the Institution of Engineering and Technology website here.

Kent Active System Management (KASM)

UK Power Networks trialled the use of contingency analysis and forecasting tools on the GB electricity distribution network. Contingency analysis is an advan…

UK Power Networks trialled the use of contingency analysis and forecasting tools on the GB electricity distribution network. Contingency analysis is an advanced form of power flow modelling that can evaluate in near real-time the potential for adverse conditions to impact the distribution network. The KASM project was the first trial of contingency analysis on a coordinated and interfaced basis with the electricity transmission network.

The project established the necessary business processes and functional requirements to allow the exchange of real-time data between the UK Power Networks and national transmission system control rooms. In addition, we used an interactive software solution that will analyse and forecast power flows on the 400 kV, 132 kV and 33kV networks in East Kent and prepare contingency analysis studies within operational time frames.

Following the transition of the solution to business as usual, UK Power Networks’ outage planners are using the forecasting solutions and as a result has already delivered 3000MWh of reduced generation curtailment to date.

Low Voltage Visibility and Monitoring

Over the last 30 years, automatic Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) has generally been rolled out. SCADA has benefits that come from the abili…

Over the last 30 years, automatic Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) has generally been rolled out. SCADA has benefits that come from the ability to control switchgear from a central control room, starting with control and monitoring at grid, Extra High Voltage (EHV) and primary substation sites.

Monitoring the secondary, Low Voltage (LV) network has mostly been achieved through the roll out of Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) along with basic load monitoring. This has been driven by the need to be able to maintain a reliable and safe electricity network.

UK Power Networks successfully started monitoring the LV network from 2019, installing monitoring at c.1,500 distribution substations that gives deeper insight down to per phase per feeder of the network. Thanks to our industry-leading forecasting tool, we were able to identify areas on our LV networks where we expect more low carbon technologies to be adopted. We installed the monitoring in these priority areas to collect and transmit real-time data from the remote network substation to our network control room. This is enables us to respond to the changing energy landscape and have a better view of our network that we have not had before. The data and information gained will help us to inform smart grid developments including flexibility services and flexible connections that will generate new revenues streams for customers. The increase visibility will also enable us to efficiently connect more clean resources as we transition to Net Zero without overloading the network.

VisNet Hub monitoring devices

To further support LV visibility, UK Power Networks has been trialling VisNet Hub for load monitoring at 34 substations in the Carnaby Street South …

To further support LV visibility, UK Power Networks has been trialling VisNet Hub for load monitoring at 34 substations in the Carnaby Street South Group in LPN since 2019.

The VisNet Hub is a substation monitor that checks voltage and current data on LV circuits and provides insight on load, faults and network condition information. The device also provides notifications for reverse power flows, fuse blows, low voltage and pre-fault conditions on the network.

UK Power Networks is also trialling VisNet Hubs specifically for pre-fault and fault location use cases on the LV network. If proven successful, a further 150 VisNet devices will be installed in our Purfleet operational area in 2021. Learnings will be used to enhance the LV fault management processes across our network to ensure we continue to provide the most reliable service for our customers.

Envision

With the rise of renewables, decentralisation and the millions of connected devices on our network, it will take more than human intelligence to decarbonise …

With the rise of renewables, decentralisation and the millions of connected devices on our network, it will take more than human intelligence to decarbonise the grid.  To harness the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution, which centres on digital advancements, it is important we collaborate and experiment with stakeholders to solve emerging challenges using the latest technology.

Detailed ‘visibility’ of our network is critical as we plan ahead to facilitate a low carbon, Net Zero future. As more renewable energy sources connect to the network and more people switch to electric vehicles and heating, having exact data means we can plan targeted investment in infrastructure across our network at the right time and in the right places.

We are exploring ways in which our data can be used to model demand and enhance the visibility of our Low Voltage (LV) network. In partnership with CK Delta we are developing a first of its kind machine learning based software tool that will generate greater low voltage (LV) network insights faster and cheaper compared to traditional methods of physical monitoring. The project is a key step to widening the flexibility market and building a smart grid that enables cleaner, greener energy resources to connect quicker and at lower cost.

We will also uncover the role and value of what third party data could be used to unlock greater insights and improve our services. For example we will be exploring the possibilities of obtaining data at scale from Distributed Energy Resources (DER), this could include data from renewable energy generators, electric vehicle charging point/ fleet managers, local heat network operators or community energy scheme owners, that we can use for forecasting. Forecasting allows us to plan ahead and invest strategically to facilitate the Net Zero carbon emissions revolution.

The project will also help us understand how the software can be put to best use, how it integrates with our other systems and devices, what additional data streams can be further explored and how it can deliver more value to our customers.

Operational Fibre Network Refresh

The operational fibre network covers approximately 200 substations, mostly 132kV, providing mission critical communications for network protection, SCADA, an…

The operational fibre network covers approximately 200 substations, mostly 132kV, providing mission critical communications for network protection, SCADA, and operational data exchange. This network will be refreshed with additional optical fibre cables and the newest rented optical products. The benefits will be increased bandwidth and flexibility, enabling increased data flows for smart grid management and overlays of additional capabilities where required. Furthermore, by introducing rented optical products that have improved monitoring, detailed route maps, and fast priority restoration times, customers will benefit from improved network reliability and resilience. And finally, the refresh will also enable the network to be run at a lower cost, therefore reducing the overall cost to customers. Design work for the refresh will be carried out in 2021 and 2022, with the roll-out in 2022 to 2026.

Future Control Room

Managing modern distribution systems, ensuring network reliability and resilience, supporting flexibility, and managing local supply and demand are just a fe…

Managing modern distribution systems, ensuring network reliability and resilience, supporting flexibility, and managing local supply and demand are just a few of the responsibilities that We are mastering.

At UK Power Networks, our control room deals with approximately eight million data exchange transactions corresponding to approximately 20.5 million data points on a daily basis. These figures are approximated to be in the range of 73 million transactions that correspond to 3 billion data points exchanged on daily basis in 2050 (after utilising data from smart meters and other data sources).

To be prepared for the future we are carrying out a research project that is aimed at exploring how modern control rooms, ANM systems, and a control room simulation environment will support in developing an optimum design for the future control room. The collaborative project is looking into the development of a digital twin of the future GB energy system to safely explore a wide range of network scenarios, simulate extreme network conditions, and research the potential control room utilisation and integration of new data sources and analytical techniques. The project is also exploring the requirements for secure real time data exchange between the control room and external entities, such as commercial market platforms and DER/LCT operators, along with exploring mechanisms for increasing the intelligence within the control room and evolve automation capabilities to a level by which automation would be delivered at scale and very quickly.

Load Share

The Load Share project team identified a 132kV network in one of UK Power Networks areas with three parallel circuits with mixed high voltage overhead lines …

The Load Share project team identified a 132kV network in one of UK Power Networks areas with three parallel circuits with mixed high voltage overhead lines (OHL) and underground (UG) components that date back to the 1960s. At the time, it was estimated that the traditional way of releasing capacity by upgrading our network could cost more than £20 million.

Instead, the Load Share project took a different approach by going back to the fundamentals of load flow; actively changing the impedance of the lines to balance the loading between these circuits:

  1. By installing site-based devices (PGs) and OHL mounted devices (PLGs); all of these are remotely controlled via central intelligence and supported by autonomous operation. These devices change the effective impedance of the lines, and therefore result in a change in the natural load flow with the objective of balancing the circuits loading, using the underutilised capacity, and enable integration of more low carbon technologies in this network area.
  2. By increasing the temperature of the circuits to change the conductors’ characteristics and facilitate the installation and effectiveness of the PG and PLG devices.

The Load Share project was successful in creating 95MW of capacity with 85% less investment costs compared to traditional reinforcement. This solution can be replicated wherever needed and now forms part of the UK Power Networks’ smart toolbox for delivering low-cost solutions to the end customer while enabling the transition to Net Zero.

In support of the project, Smart Wires’ European managing director, Michael Walsh said: “UK Power Networks was incredibly impressive to work with, and by pursuing projects like this, the company shows its commitment to its customers, energy transition, and a greener, better future.

“Smart Wires’ power flow technology is a game-changer in the energy industry and is changing the way grid operators across the world think about integrating renewable generation. By enabling utilities to control where power flows on their networks, they can now integrate renewables more efficiently and at a lower cost and impact to consumers. The work UK Power Networks has done with Load Share is a perfect example of the impact this technology can have.”

Optimise Prime

Optimise Prime is the world’s biggest trial of commercial EVs. It seeks to develop practical solutions to the challenges preventing fleet vehicle operators…

Optimise Prime is the world’s biggest trial of commercial EVs. It seeks to develop practical solutions to the challenges preventing fleet vehicle operators from going electric. It will develop technical and commercial solutions to save customer more than £200m by 2030 and enable the faster transition to electric for commercial fleets and private hire vehicle operators. The project is also playing a vital role in helping the UK meet its carbon reduction targets. The accelerated adoption of commercial EVs will save 2.7m tonnes of CO2, equivalent to London’s entire bus fleet running for four years or a full Boeing 747-400 travelling around the world 1,484 times. The flexibility provided by the project will also free up enough capacity on the electricity network to supply a million homes.

Optimise Prime is also trialling a flexible demand connection called a profiled connection as part of the Depot Trial. This extends the timed connection offering by providing up to 48 half-hourly time slots in which the maximum power requirement can be varied. This will allow customers who have flexible loads – such as electric cars in the case of Optimise Prime – to control the imported power by using ‘behind the meter’ smart control solutions. Customers will follow an agreed profile which will result in the increased utilisation of existing network capacity, avoiding costly reinforcements and resulting in quicker connections for customers. LV monitoring equipment is being installed at Royal Mail depots and associated secondary substations participating in the Depot Trial to allow active monitoring of adherence to an agreed profile by the ANM System.

Power Potential

Over 2020 and 2021, we delivered ground-breaking live trials, demonstrating how a DSO can enable distributed energy resources (DER) to deliver reactive power…

Over 2020 and 2021, we delivered ground-breaking live trials, demonstrating how a DSO can enable distributed energy resources (DER) to deliver reactive power services for voltage control for the transmission network. This was a joint project with National Grid ESO, including both a commercial and technical demonstration, integrated with live operational systems. Thus integrated monitoring & control was crucial to its successful delivery. Twenty systems and links were successfully integrated, both for test and live systems.

Examples of the monitoring and control elements used in the trial were as follows:

  • A secure Inter Control Centre Protocol (ICCP) links between the UK Power Networks and National Grid ESO control systems, to provide live measurements at the transmission-distribution interface for the control solution
  • A further ICCP link between UK Power Networks’ network management systems and the Distributed Energy Resources Management System (DERMS) developed for the project. The DERMS enabled the virtual power plant of DER, and ensured service delivery remained within the defined operational limits.
  • Communications between each DER and DERMS, via the network management system, SCADA communications, and Remote Terminal Units, according to a defined DER interface schedule using DNP3. Trial participants brought their DER controllers to our laboratory for bench testing with a test RTU in order to validate the signal exchange prior to the live commissioning for the services.
  • A web-services link between DERMS and National Grid ESO’ Platform for Ancillary Services (PAS). Through this link, the National Grid ESO procurement team had visibility of the cost and volume of the available service day ahead per Grid Supply Point, and the control team were then able to dispatch the service on delivery day.

Following the successful trial, the solution will now be adapted and further developed as part of the Regional Development Programmes with National Grid ESO. UK Power Networks has committed to roll out the solution as a business-as-usual product across the Southern and Eastern regions by 2028.

Data Analytics

New digital technologies are transforming our business. The amount of data we collect and utilise is rapidly expanding as we equip our workforce with smart devices to augment data capture in the field, and as we extend smart metering and remote monitoring devices across every part of our networks. Data is allowing us to gain actionable insights like never before, making our business more effective, efficient so we can better serve our customers.

We are also increasingly opening up our network and asset data, providing full access and the ability for third party stakeholders and customers to access, use and consume our data Data transparency is increasingly important to realise the full potential value of our data and in facilitate the full potential of Smart Grid development.

Data and analytics sits at the core of our Digitalisation Strategy & Action plan published in December 2020 This plan details our holistic, stakeholder driven approach to digital and outlines a number of the developments and activities we are undertaking to ensure we are at the forefront in delivering differentiating data enabled services.

We continue to develop and implement various advanced analytical techniques while advancing our data engineering and governance practices. We use cloud based infrastructure and solutions to deliver reliable, highly accessible and interoperable data to both internal and external data consumers. We are leading in collaborative efforts across and beyond the energy sector in order to ensure we are at the forefront of the digital evolution.

An example of this is our participation in the London Data Commission and associated work with the Mayor of London’s Electric Vehicle Taskforce where we, as one of 16 industry leaders developed a delivery plan for electric vehicle infrastructure for 2025. As part of the electric vehicle (EV) taskforce, we developed a constraint map showing where the cheapest and quickest locations are likely to be to connect public chargers on the low voltage networks. You can view the map here.

We are also leading participants in the National Digital Twin Climate Resilience Demonstrator Project (CReDo); which aims to demonstrate the value of the concept of a National Digital Twin in the arena of climate change. The project aims to look specifically at the impact of extreme weather, in particular flooding, on energy, water and telecoms networks and how those who own and operate them can plan to mitigate the effect of flooding on network performance and service delivery to customers. CReDo will be one of the first climate change adaptation digital twins; showing how greater access to the right information can help to manage the impact of climate change.

We are also working with Google DeepMind to apply artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, combined with optical recognition to automate the digital conversion of legacy, non-digital network records. Through the application of this approach, we can unlock an otherwise constrained source of rich information about our network and assets, utilising that data to provide digital solutions across our asset management and operational activities.

Facilitating Open Data

We continue to advance how we openly publish asset and network data in response to the recommendations first laid out by the Energy Data Taskforce in 2019.…

We continue to advance how we openly publish asset and network data in response to the recommendations first laid out by the Energy Data Taskforce in 2019.

Building upon our existing Open Data Portal, we are now in the process of implementing an advanced data portal, which provides greater sophistication to how we share and publish data to external consumers.

Data on the portal is published with standardised metadata to provide valuable contextual information, informing appropriate use. It also presented in range of configurable formats (e.g. tabular, graphical, geospatial, etc.) and both downloadable in various formats or consumable through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). This allows data to be accessed and utilised by a broad range of stakeholders.

To inform the development of this and other open data services, we are collaborating with the Open Data Institute and Regen to engage with stakeholders to establish an unrivalled and comprehensive understanding of data consumer needs, use cases and value propositions. This has been achieved through a range of digitally enabled engagement techniques, resulting in the publication of the research.

A soft-launch of the advanced data portal event was held in July 2021, presenting the platform to the stakeholder community. This full launch of the platform is scheduled for September 2021.

DSO Dashboard

The Energy Data Taskforce recommends better data transparency and access will be essential to modernise the UK’s energy system and facilitate Net Zero. UK …

The Energy Data Taskforce recommends better data transparency and access will be essential to modernise the UK’s energy system and facilitate Net Zero. UK Power Networks’ distributed energy resource (DER) customers also asked us for better visibility of network data beyond static maps to locate the most affordable points to connect.

We engaged with over 60 stakeholders including DER customers, ESO and academics to co-develop and trial a dynamic interactive dashboard of detailed real-time network information. Based on DER community needs, we released over 200 data points, from network frequency, voltage, volumes of active and reactive power, to generation connected to the network and generation mix.
Customers asked to go deeper into the network than other DNOs, so we made data available at Grid Supply Point level, rather than licence area level, to support efficient planning of connections and operations.

Following positive feedback from flexibility developers, DER operators and academics, with 97% interested in seeing it being developed further. Based on user feedback, we plan to go even deeper into our network in upcoming releases of the dashboard to open up data at lower voltage levels, add power quality data, along with geographic as and demographic context to locate the most affordable points to connect.

Reducing tree and storm faults – vegetation management

UK Power Networks designed a tool to bring together data from across the business that enabled us to better identify and prioritise areas for vegetation mana…

UK Power Networks designed a tool to bring together data from across the business that enabled us to better identify and prioritise areas for vegetation management. Through advanced data blending techniques discrete systems together with open source technologies we undertook a multi-variate analysis and balanced scorecard approach to the datasets demonstrated below.

This enabled us to create an optimisation engine for tree cutting at a more granular level and update our cutting plans for 2021 to incorporate, 14 new high risk regions that were previously not identified. We have also improved fault protection to 10% more customers than our existing tree cutting programme.

This project was completed in house, at no additional cost to customers or the business.

Distributed Future Energy Scenarios (DFES)

Distributed Future Energy Scenarios are a series of geographically specific forecasts designed to help outline different, plausible pathways for the future o…

Distributed Future Energy Scenarios are a series of geographically specific forecasts designed to help outline different, plausible pathways for the future of energy through to 2050.

These forecasts are collected into four scenario worlds, with varying degrees of societal change and speeds of decarbonisation, designed to cover a variety of energy pathways.

In developing our latest DFES, we consulted with a range of local government stakeholders, including councils and local authorities from within our region, to discuss their plans for decarbonisation. We then worked with the Open Data Institute to develop and interactive geospatial interface to facilitate the exploration of the DFES based on varying parameters and timescales, also publishing the underlying data under a Collective Commons open licence. In doing so, we have provided DFES consumers with the most advanced way of exploring and understanding the future energy world, whilst also giving them access to the same raw data to facilitate their own supplementary analysis.

The smart metering roll-out

Smart meters are playing a crucial role in Great Britain’s transition to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, helping to meet its long-term challenges of ens…

Smart meters are playing a crucial role in Great Britain’s transition to a net-zero carbon economy by 2050, helping to meet its long-term challenges of ensuring an affordable, secure and sustainable energy supply. Smart meters are allowing consumers to monitor their electricity consumption more effectively and make smart choices in managing their usage.

The technology is also presenting significant opportunities for us and other DNOs to introduce more sophisticated energy management systems that will pave the way for Net Zero.

Smart meter installation volumes during the 2020/21 regulation year reduced in comparison to previous year’s installation rates due to the COVID-19 restrictions; however this situation started to improve towards the end of the period. We currently have 43% of UK Power Networks domestic customers with a smart meter, where this equates to 3.36 million smart meters installed.

This year, we have engaged across the industry to play a pivotal role in helping energy retailers meet their smart meter roll-out target (now 85% of homes by 2024). Our engagement resulted in three clear requests for support: set clear service level agreements, reduce volume of customer handoffs, and foster consistency across network operators.
Our achievements:

  • Created bespoke supplier and customer satisfaction frameworks specifically for smart meter interventions so that we can measure and monitor our service.
  • Developed a user-friendly weblink shortcut allowing customers to upload meter box photographs in order to reduce handoffs and visits and to enable remote clarification of specifications prior to engineer attendance.
  • Offered our Smart Meter Manager to chair the ENA Service Termination Issues Group, consisting of representatives from all DNOs to foster smart metering consistency across networks.
  • Improved our customer satisfaction score of 94% for customers having a smart meter as a result of reduced hand-offs, and improved electricity supplier business to business satisfaction score to 84%, up from 74% the previous regulatory year.

For more information, see our full report here.

Envision

With the rise of renewables, decentralisation and the millions of connected devices on our network, it will take more than human intelligence to decarbonise …

With the rise of renewables, decentralisation and the millions of connected devices on our network, it will take more than human intelligence to decarbonise the grid.  To harness the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution it is important we collaborate and experiment with stakeholders to solve emerging challenges using the latest digital technology.

Moreover, stakeholders asked us to deliver data on our low voltage network faster and cheaper to support the growth of residential flexibility to enable better management of EV and heat pump loads ahead of network reinforcement, keeping the costs down.

Building on innovation from the telecoms industry, we launched a groundbreaking trial with machine learning experts and data scientists to co-develop a data-driven model providing a predicted measurement of low voltage network demand with 75% accuracy, enabling customers to connect faster and cheaper and supporting network reliability in the transition to electrified transport and heating.

Envision will unlock network visibility at 69,000+ substations, saving £4m in network reinforcement and avoiding 597 tCO2 from reduced journeys.

We are also exploring how third party data could enhance and complement data-driven models to advance our visibility of our low voltage network and improve accuracies in predictions, helping us to plan ahead and facilitate a lower carbon future for all. To uncover the role and value of third party data, we are exploring the possibilities of obtaining data at scale from data producers and providers. This could include data from renewable energy generators, electric vehicle charging point/fleet managers, local heat network operators or community energy scheme owners.

Google DeepMind Digital Conversion

Many of our legacy network records are held in raster based, non-digital formats. Valuable data is therefore locked up in a non-consumable form, constraining…

Many of our legacy network records are held in raster based, non-digital formats. Valuable data is therefore locked up in a non-consumable form, constraining the ability to realise its full potential.

Working with Google DeepMind, we have successfully trialled the application of AI and ML driven techniques to identify, analyse and convert non-digital records into a fully digitised dataset, allowing the subsequent application across a broad range of applications and processes.

By applying these advanced analytical techniques for this purpose, we’re removing the need for expensive, manually intensive data conversion, significantly reducing the time to deliver and allowing the application of this data across a range of digital asset management and operational services and solutions.

Customer satisfaction predictor tool kit

The customer satisfaction predictor tool kit has allowed us to implement numerous improvements to our engagement with stakeholders. Examples include: …

The customer satisfaction predictor tool kit has allowed us to implement numerous improvements to our engagement with stakeholders. Examples include:

  • Improving the frequency and content of our messaging during a supply interruption.
  • Creating a Machine Learning (ML) algorithm that improves the accuracy of our ‘Estimated Time of Restoration’ by more than 50%.
  • Creating a Machine Learning (ML) algorithm that detects what our customers really care about and guides customer service agents on a case by case basis on how to do even better.
  • Identifying key features of our externally facing website, which we continue to work to improve.

 

Overhead Line Assessment Using Panoramic Images

Overhead Line Assessment Using Panoramic Images is a project in which we tested the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of using panoramic images, compared to…

Overhead Line Assessment Using Panoramic Images is a project in which we tested the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of using panoramic images, compared to repeated line patrols on foot. The project was funded by £165,500 from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance. We worked with OniGroup to count how many of our 700,000+ wooden electricity support poles in the South East and East of England are sufficiently covered by Google Street View to allow their condition to be assessed from a desktop.

Where images were not available from the roadside, inspectors will strap on a backpack with a telescopic lens that captures 360-degree video or still imagery. We found that 52% of all UK Power Networks’ poles were available in Google Street view, which exceeded our initial expectation of 40%. Of these images, slightly more than half were taken in the previous six years. Only a very small fraction had been taken in the previous year. We successfully worked with a third-party service provider, Captura Surveying and Inspections, to capture panoramic images of poles in areas without Google Streetview coverage. We created an update to the internal GIS platform to include the appropriate Google Street View Images. This enables users to search for a pole using its unique ID and view the available image for the pole. In the future, ‘image recognition’ could be applied to images to undertake inspection checks.

To find out more about this project, visit its dedicated page.

CNAIM modelling data flow

CNAIM modelling data flow has made UK Power Networks an industry leader in asset risk modelling with Asset Risk & Prioritisation (ARP) models and its mod…

CNAIM modelling data flow has made UK Power Networks an industry leader in asset risk modelling with Asset Risk & Prioritisation (ARP) models and its modelling framework. We have been chairing the working group to develop CNAIM with all UK distribution network operators. Sustainable solution has been now developed and deployed for our ARP risk modelling.

High voltage underground cable research

High voltage Underground Cable Research is using data to prioritise the replacement of assets that are nearing the end of their useful life. The Cable Priori…

High voltage Underground Cable Research is using data to prioritise the replacement of assets that are nearing the end of their useful life. The Cable Prioritisation Tool that we developed provides health indices for underground cables. It enables us to identify high priority cables that require early intervention so that we can optimise our investment strategy and maintain supply security at the lowest possible cost to customers.

Monte Carlo simulation modelling

To assure we can deliver essential services to our customers, even at the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak we rapidly developed a sophisticated Monte Carlo Simu…

To assure we can deliver essential services to our customers, even at the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak we rapidly developed a sophisticated Monte Carlo Simulation. This used the latest research and early data from China and Italy to assess the impact that COVID-19 was likely to have on various UK Power Networks key workers well ahead of the virus spreading in the UK. This informed decisions on prioritising planned vs unplanned work during lockdown and to track progress in eliminating the backlog of planned jobs that built up.

Asset Health Dashboards

Following a number of asset failures on the secondary distribution network, it was determined that the approach to identifying assets which may require urgen…

Following a number of asset failures on the secondary distribution network, it was determined that the approach to identifying assets which may require urgent intervention was not easily identifiable due to the spread of data across systems. After a period of review, it was decided to utilise PowerBI to extract safety critical data from systems and put this information on a single dashboard for each asset category. This new process now means that asset engineers can quickly, and easily identify equipment that requires an investment decision to be made. As a result, we can invest in assets before they fail and avoid unplanned customer interruptions by replacing equipment before a fault occurs improving the reliability of our network.

Supply Reliability

Customers rely on us to keep their lights on. We’re proud that London is the most reliable of the UK’s 14 distribution network licence areas. The improvements we have made our networks since 2010/11 have resulted in a significant reduction in both the frequency and duration of power cuts throughout our networks, making us the UK’s most reliable electricity network operator. We have developed ever-more sophisticated ways to prevent faults occurring and speed up the repair process. Automation and remote control have been major contributors to these improvements.

The two ways in which network reliability is measured globally include SAIDI and SAIFI. SAIFI is the average number of interruptions a customer would experience. SAIDI is the average length of time a customer would be without power, for power cuts lasting three minutes or longer.

Our performance in numbers:

  • SAIFI – 0.13 interruptions per connected customer – Our power cut performance improvement means customers now see an interruption on average once every 7.6 years
  • SAIDI – 14.39 minutes lost per connected customer – A customer connected to our network will be off supply on average for just over 14 minutes.

Operational Performance

Primary (EHV) Outage Restoration Tool (PORT)

As the industry leader in HV automation systems, we wanted to develop similar automation at the EHV level. That’s why we developed with General Electric ne…

As the industry leader in HV automation systems, we wanted to develop similar automation at the EHV level. That’s why we developed with General Electric new automation logic to apply to EHV outages. After a trial in Q1 2018, this is being rolled out across all compatible EPN and SPN primary substations, currently covering 72%. The new technology has helped us ensure we deliver the best service to our customers. It has restored 148,000 customers connection in under 3 minutes, saving on average of 4.7 minutes of customer interruptions per 100 customers.

 

LV RECLOSERS

To reduce the impact of transient faults we use three types of reclosing devices on the low voltage distribution network: ALVIN reclosers (provided by EA Tec…

To reduce the impact of transient faults we use three types of reclosing devices on the low voltage distribution network: ALVIN reclosers (provided by EA Technology), Weezaps and Bidoyngs (provided by Kelvatek).

These devices are installed on distribution boards in place of fuses and automatically restore supplies within a three-minute window, after transient faults. This avoids sending an engineer to site and improves the quality of supply for our customers, with fewer interuptions and fewer customer minutes lost.In the last three regulatory years) these devices contributed to 2.1 CI/100c and 3.6 CML/cc savings on average per year.

Predicting Embedded Generation

To support our operation of the ANM schemes in the south coastwe have undertaken exploratory work on short-term forecasting. The work consisted of training m…

To support our operation of the ANM schemes in the south coastwe have undertaken exploratory work on short-term forecasting. The work consisted of training machine-learning algorithms, such as random forests and Long Short Term Memory models, on real measured data from the UK Power Networks PI historian system, and weather observations from the met office. Weather forecasts were used from dynamic services such as tomorrow.io which allowed for more granular forecasts set at the exact location of the site. We found that the accuracy of the forecast could be improved over a 5 day ahead period for all generators in the regions as well as demand substations. Our preliminary findings fed into a report by the ENA Open Networks group, WS1B P3 Operational Forecasting. Read the report here.

Distributed Energy Resource Integration

As a leader in the transition to becoming a DSO, we can make use of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) owned by our customers, such as rooftop solar panels, …

As a leader in the transition to becoming a DSO, we can make use of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) owned by our customers, such as rooftop solar panels, to run our networks more efficiently without having to build expensive new infrastructure. We pay for these ‘Smart Grid’ services, offering customers the opportunity to access new sources of revenue.

That’s why we developed the world-leading Flexible Distributed Generation. Beginning as an innovation project called Flexible Plug & Play, it has transitioned into business as usual and has been successfully rolled out across the whole of our network. It has saved our customers more than £70m since 2015 and saved 20,394 tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent environmental benefit of planting 250,000 trees.

To facilitate the integration of these resources on our network, we have made our products simple, transparent and accessible. For example, our collaboration with technology start-up Piclo has continued, co-developing their online platform, making it easier for anyone to register and offer their assets to help us run our networks more efficiently. In 2018/19, we became the first UK network operator to make the commitment to market test all remaining RIIO-ED1 load-related reinforcement, aiming to procure at least 200MW from customers’ DER by 2023. Piclo is now used by all DNOs across the country, allowing greater transparency and opportunity for customers to access new sources of revenue.

We also lowered the capacity threshold so that small domestic generators could participate, and we extended the length of our contracts to give customers greater confidence in the return on their investment. The result was an unprecedented 6,000% increase in the number of customers registering their generation assets on Piclo, providing more resource for us to manage our networks more efficiently for all of our customers.

James Johnston, Chief Executive of Piclo, said: “UK Power Networks was the first DNO to recognise the value in working with an independent market platform to lower barriers and increase transparency for customers. UKPN have shown real leadership and, as a result, we are seeing exciting levels of participation on the platform, including the hard-to-reach, such as community groups.”

We also built, at it’s time, the largest battery in Europe in our Smarter Network Storage innovation project. SNS proved, for the first time, that commercial storage can potentially transform the energy grid and play a major role in the transition towards a low-carbon economy. SNS was the first grid-scale battery storage project in the UK and the only one of its kind currently operating on the energy network when it was developed. It proved, for the first time, that energy storage has the potential to be both technically and commercially viable. The two-year trial of the 6MW/10MWh “big battery” – which is the size of three tennis courts and can store enough electricity to power 6,000 homes for 1.5 hours at peak times* – began in 2014.

Our ground-breaking research didn’t stop at large scale batteries, because we knew that smaller-scale storage had an important role to play too. Our innovation project Domestic Energy Storage and Control (DESC) demonstrated that domestic energy storage coupled with solar panels on people’s homes also had a role to play in the transition to a low carbon economy. Working with Imperial College London, we proved it is possible for network operators to influence how and when clusters of domestic batteries release their energy onto the network.

This research, which began in 2016, paid off just two years later when we became the first ever network operator in the UK to sign a contract to procure flexibility services from a ‘virtual power station’ backed by domestic batteries and rooftop solar panels. The fleet of batteries in 40 homes across the London Borough of Barnet, North London, were to be remotely controlled to combine the output from domestic solar panels and ensure they are fully charged and ready for the weekday evening peak demand. The flexibility provider was recruited to offer the services following a competitive bidding process.

To help customers engage in our flexibility market, we have produced a number of resources to make it easier for distributed energy resources to connect to our network. You can view the full set of resources on our dedicated DER page here.

Fault monitoring

 

High Voltage Feeder Monitoring to pre-empt Faults

In 2019, we started our High Voltage Feeder Monitoring project in collaboration with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and working closely with two …

In 2019, we started our High Voltage Feeder Monitoring project in collaboration with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks and working closely with two suppliers – Lord Consulting and Nortech. The project started in 2019 and will run until 2022.

The project is testing the functionality of a network monitoring device (Distribution Fault Anticipation, DFA-Plus) alongside other network monitoring equipment such as fault passage indicators. This will prove if it is an effective way to identify and locate network anomalies on High Voltage feeders before they turn into faults. If successful, the project will allow us to maintain the network in a way that reduces the number of faults that occur therefore improving the service we provide customers.

The DFA-plus is an on-line monitoring device typically installed at a substation and used to monitor outgoing feeders from the substation. The device collects and analyses real time data and determines whether it is normal. If it isn’t, the device then matches the activity with the most likely type of fault that could occur and reports its findings via a web-based interface and email.

This project will help us to identify faults that could occur on the network as well as provide accurate location of where they are and target repairs on the network for efficiently whilst providing better service for our customers.

Real Time Fault Level Monitoring

  Our Real Time Fault Level Monitoring builds on the high voltage feeder-monitoring project to identify faults more accurately and prevent custom…

 

Our Real Time Fault Level Monitoring builds on the high voltage feeder-monitoring project to identify faults more accurately and prevent customers loosing supply. Determining the fault current on the network is key in order to select equipment ratings, protect equipment and connect Distributed Energy Resources. Currently, fault current is calculated from modelling and using know IEC and IEEE standards rather than measurements. With over one hundred locations across out networks that need fault level management, we are collaborating with SPEN and Outram Technologies to develop and trial a prototype Real Time Fault Level Monitoring (RTFLM) solution.

 

The real time monitoring will use inductor load banks to create artificial switching or disturbances and therefore we will receive results that are more accurate in less than a minute.

 

During the first stage of the trial successfully measured fault levels on a secondary substation and an 11kV substation. Stage 2 will trial the solution on a number on different sites to prove the device works in a wider range of scenarios. If successful, the solution will help us plan and target reinforcement of the networks as well as Distribute Energy Resource connections more efficiently. We will also be able to planning for outages and have real time operation of customer supply restoration meaning, if customers ever loose supply we will be able to fix the fault faster.

Circuit See

Circuit See aims to demonstrate and trial a transmission level solution from Reactive Technologies. This will prove that it is an accurate, scalable and cost…

Circuit See aims to demonstrate and trial a transmission level solution from Reactive Technologies. This will prove that it is an accurate, scalable and cost effective model for deploying fault level monitoring at sites where fault levels have exceeded a 95% limit.

The solution is first of its kind and has never been used in the UK at distribution level. Circuit See uses active and passive disturbance events to measure fault levels and combines measurements in strategic points to determine the real fault levels for the entire network. That means we won’t need to have measurement devices in all substations.

Results from phase one, which took place in 2020, showed that the solution is a robust and effective way to monitor fault level across the distribution network. We also gained an initial understanding of how to deeply the solution. If further trials are successful, it could also prevent costly network reinforcements thanks to the release of fault level capacity.

MILES

MILES is a system which aims to give us quicker and easier location of faults along our feeders. It uses low voltage power quality sensors, voltage drop loca…

MILES is a system which aims to give us quicker and easier location of faults along our feeders. It uses low voltage power quality sensors, voltage drop location algorithms and cloud computing to detect, locate and classify permanent and transient faults. The system aims to provide sufficient prefault information to enable proactive asset intervention to prevent the fault from happening.

It means we will be able to find faults faster and deliver better performance to our customers.

This technology was successfully developed and rolled out by Hydro-Quebec in Canada and is now being industrialised in partnership with CGI. We are currently trialling the technology and if proven successful from a technical and commercial perspective, we will deploy this on our network at scale so as to reduce the CI and CML impact and improve the service to our customers. It could even lead to us preventing faults before they happen in the first place.

Unified Protection

Unified Protection is trialling a new substation centralised protection system. Our project method will verify and validate the use of this system for the pr…

Unified Protection is trialling a new substation centralised protection system. Our project method will verify and validate the use of this system for the protection of future substations. Additionally, the future requirements of distribution substations will be developed and aligned with the wider DSO strategy as part of this project.

Instead of using local protection relays on each substation bay as the main source of protection, a central system is being used within a substation. This system can be modified and upgraded via software and does not require new plant or the introduction of new functions or bays. For the purpose of the trial demonstration, the system has been installed in parallel with the existing protection scheme.

This is the first full IEC 61850 substation solution with centralised protection and control implemented by a DNO in GB and among the first three in the world.

Smart Cable Guard

We are designing Smart Cable Guard (SCG) equipment manufactured by DNVGL to detects and locate partial discharge (PD) from our cables that occurs because of …

We are designing Smart Cable Guard (SCG) equipment manufactured by DNVGL to detects and locate partial discharge (PD) from our cables that occurs because of weak spots in the cable insulation or joints. PD is most often an indication the cable could fail in the future. The SCG system can detect PD activity or weak spots and pinpoint their location with an accuracy of 1% of the cable length being monitored by the system. This means we can prevent or minimise preventing the impact of faults. This fault prevention will also reduce both CIs and CMLs and allow us to save customers money while being more efficient.

We are currently undertaking site selection and surveys before we rollout installation of the equipment and commence trials that will run for 18 months.

Distributed Energy Resource Integration

We have established our credibility as the utility that can deliver change by connecting unprecedented volumes of renewable energy at record pace. We have connected more than 700 high voltage and extra high voltage/EHV generators, plus 170,000 LV generators to our network. In total, this means 9.5GW of distributed generation is integrated into our network.

In the seven years between 2011 and 2018, more than 7GW of renewable energy was connected directly to our networks. That’s almost the same as the UK’s entire nuclear power output, in a fraction of the time and cost it typically takes to build one of them, and we took it in our stride. The volume of distributed generation connections enquiries rose almost tenfold from 900 to more than 8,000 in just five years. Despite the huge increase in volumes, we still achieved a customer satisfaction score of 92.8%.

We publish an embedded capacity register (ECR) which comprises connected and accepted to connect generation projects greater than 1MW.  Details include MPAN, site name and address, location details and technology size and type.  The register comprises over 900 entries – more than 600 of which are already connected with a combined export capacity of 7,800MW.  Until last year, the ECR was known as the system wide resource register.

It has now been enhanced to include details of reinforcement for accepted to connect projects as well as additional data. This new information allows all stakeholders to have full visibility of connected projects as well as the size of upcoming projects in the pipeline.

Customer Connections

DER customers told us the cost of connecting to our networks can sometimes make their projects unviable, so we worked to make it cheaper. In 2018, we …

DER customers told us the cost of connecting to our networks can sometimes make their projects unviable, so we worked to make it cheaper.

In 2018, we undertook several innovations to reduce the amount of infrastructure we need to build, saving customers’ money and allowing cheaper connections to our networks.

  • Collaboration: We collaborated with international partners to look for new technologies that unlock existing assets. We are now installing the world’s first load balancer at a distribution network level. This advanced technology is now being deployed in Colchester, East England, enabling an additional 95MW for customer connections and saving customers £8m.
  • Multi-targeted approach: We created a programme of works to combine advanced analytics, monitoring and targeted network upgrades aimed at releasing more capacity at lowest cost. This programme has led to the release of 182MW in our southern network, SPN, and 327MW in our eastern network, EPN for additional connections.

In total, these initiatives have created over 3GW of new capacity (assuming the average cost of new renewable generation capacity is £1m per MW). This in turn could allow £500m of additional investment of renewable generation into our networks and even greater value for money for our customers.

In 2019 we partnered with leading companies from the UK, US and Australia in scaling up our active network management system. This is an advanced digital platform that allows our network to be more efficient, freeing up capacity for our customers and enabling additional connections without costly and time-consuming reinforcement.

We are now the first DNO in the country to begin rolling this out across the entirety of our network. These initiatives, coupled with our long-term regional development plans, have enabled us to significantly increase network capacity and provide the new lower cost connection offerings that our customers asked us for.

Outcomes:

  • More than 3GW additional capacity
  • Up to £500m of investment opportunity for local generation
  • Offering more choice and new products to customers

Flexible Connections

Across our network, we’ve connected more than 170,000 generators, including enough renewable energy to power 3.5m homes. In certain areas, such a large vol…

Across our network, we’ve connected more than 170,000 generators, including enough renewable energy to power 3.5m homes. In certain areas, such a large volume of distributed generation creates constraints on capacity, voltage or reverse power flows. Traditionally, this meant that new generators looking to connect would need to spend time and money on physical network upgrades to remove those constraints before they could connect.

Flexible connections allow owners of distributed generation to connect cheaper and faster by removing the upfront cost and time of network reinforcement. All generators need to do is agree to temporarily reduce the amount of energy they export at certain times to keep our network within its operational limits.

Our world-leading Distributed Energy Resources Management System (DERMS) completes forecasting, power flow, fault and contingency analysis to optimise the network. The concept of a flexible connection began as an innovation project called Flexible Plug & Play, it has transitioned into business as usual and been rolled out across the whole of our networks. It has saved our customers more than £70m to date, since 2015 and saved 20,394 tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent environmental benefit of planting 250,000 trees. With a healthy pipeline of over 3.5GW progressing to connection, over the next two years, we are expecting to more than triple the existing savings, even if 10% of the connections pipeline materialised.

Timed and Profiled Connections

Customers don’t always need a connection which is available for 24 hrs per day at full capacity. Timed or profiled connections can, in the right circumstan…

Customers don’t always need a connection which is available for 24 hrs per day at full capacity. Timed or profiled connections can, in the right circumstances, provide cheaper connection solutions for customers, especially in areas where there is a lot of renewable energy.

Timed connections allow customers to connect cheaper, using energy within two or three different daily time windows. Profiled connections could have up to 48 different half-hourly periods where customers can, for example, charge electric vehicles.

Some London bus garages are already benefitting from quicker and cheaper connections thanks to timed connections. Profiled connections are being trialled with Royal Mail vans at depots as part of the Optimise Prime project, to keep the connection cost as cheap as possible in Royal Mail fleet electrification.

Power Potential – voltage control services by DER to transmission

Power Potential is a ground-breaking collaboration between National Grid ESO…

Power Potential is a ground-breaking collaboration between National Grid ESO (NGESO), UK Power Networks and generators on the south coast distribution network. It is a world-first demonstration of a regional reactive power market. Through Power Potential, NGESO can access DER resources to provide additional operational tools for managing voltage and thermal transmission constraints.

It is also a UK-first demonstration of a Distribution System Operator facilitating distributed energy resources (DER) to provide dynamic voltage control services.

In 2019, UK Power Networks tested and delivered the initial live DERMS system, signed up five customers (battery, solar and wind) to deliver 150 Mvar of service and completed laboratory testing with five DER controllers. We then commissioned five customers in 2020. In partnership with National Grid ESO, between October 2020 and March 2021, Power Potential completed its live trials of the end-end service. The DER declared their availability and bid prices day-ahead, National Grid ESO made its procurement decision for a ‘virtual power plant’ of DER, and then DERMS enabled the service delivery with the DER.

The trials successfully proved that the concept works and identified several areas for improvement as well as considerations for how it could be made business as usual. Learnings from the project are also informing National Grid ESO’s work on the future of balancing services and reactive markets. The partners in the project are continuing to use the learnings and solutions from the trial in an extension of the Regional Development Programme partnership between National Grid ESO and UK Power Networks. In July 2021 as part of our initial business plan for RIIO-ED2 (the next regulatory period for electricity distribution) we committed to work with NGESO to deliver a business as usual Power Potential offering by 2028.

Energy Exchange – market-based management of generation constraints

Our Flexible Connections enable cheaper and faster connections for generators.  Generally a ‘last in, first out’ (LIFO) rule applies to curtail output w…

Our Flexible Connections enable cheaper and faster connections for generators.  Generally a ‘last in, first out’ (LIFO) rule applies to curtail output when there are capacity restraints.

Energy Exchange has developed a commercial design for a more efficient and cost-effective approach – market-based curtailment trading mechanism (MBCM). The scale of benefits depends on the participant mix, but our core simulation of trading shows a 43% reduction in total curtailment costs.

As well as reducing total costs due to curtailment, MBCM creates new market and revenue opportunities for the additional participants in constraint management – generators on conventional firm connections who are not normally curtailed, and demand customers including batteries willing to increase demand to prevent curtailment. A MBCM could signal where there should be future distribution network reinforcement to reduce curtailment, and encourage battery storage providers to locations where they can absorb and avoid curtailment for renewable generators.

We set out to quantify how MBCM could reduce generators’ total lost revenue due to curtailment. The project has identified three sources of enabled value:

  1. Generators trade distribution curtailment to an efficient total cost and volume.
  2. Demand customers, including batteries, increase demand to prevent distribution curtailment
  3. Generation and demand customers on the distribution network participate in managing curtailment on the transmission network.

We identified that half of planned future generation connection capacity is earmarked for flexible connections, so the total curtailment is expected to increase.  The annual benefits from MBCM as opposed to LIFO range from £6,500-£27,000/MW of flexible connection capacity, with individual benefits highly dependent on the similarity of the local generation mix.

We presented the Energy Exchange concept and early insights to flexible connection customers at our customer forum, and to other key stakeholders including electricity networks, Ofgem, BEIS, DER and market platform providers. We have built their feedback into the approach. We have now scoped the next stage of contract, system and process development to apply Energy Exchange to planned outages in our South Eastern Power Networks licence area, moving towards Business as Usual application in 2022.

Addressing transmission constraints (RDP and the ICCP link)

For the past five years, we have been working closely with the transmission operator National Grid ESO to deliver process improvements to manage the interact…

For the past five years, we have been working closely with the transmission operator National Grid ESO to deliver process improvements to manage the interaction between the distribution and transmission system as part of a Regional Development Programme (RDP) for the south coast network.

RDP= looks at how to efficiently manage the complex interactions between distribution and transmission networks in areas with large amounts of transmission connections and distributed energy resources,

Since November 2020, we have been using a secure link between UK Power Networks and National Grid ESO control rooms to implement the ‘Connect and Manage’ approach to new generation connections in this area. This collaboration uses the Inter Control Centre Protocol (ICCP) link developed in our past innovation projects to deliver significant business and customer benefits. The ICCP link allows an automatic, fast and transparent solution for real-time operation to manage reverse power flow from flexible connections, which increases whole-system GB network resilience and coordination.

ICCP provides a real-time view of the volume of generation under each GSP, enabling ESO control engineers to make cost-effective decisions for managing constraints on the transmission system. This ultimately reduces the cost of balancing the energy system during transmission outages- saving £1.2m by not having to install more metering and allowing more renewable energy to connect faster.

Accelerated Loss of Mains Change Programme

Accelerated Loss of Mains Change Programme is a collaboration with NGESO to update the electrical protection of distributed generators (DG).  The programme …

Accelerated Loss of Mains Change Programme is a collaboration with NGESO to update the electrical protection of distributed generators (DG).  The programme offers funding support to DG as an incentive to make the necessary updates to their electrical protection as soon as possible. DG apply for funding on a portal via the ENA’s website.

We estimate the number of generators across UK Power Networks’ three licence areas impacted by this programme to be:

UK Power Networks License Area No. Generators Connected Capacity (GW)
EPN 1485 3.1
SPN 904 1.3
LPN 686 0.5
Total UK Power Networks 3075 4.9

 

The programme is being delivered through defined application windows. The first application window went live on 2 October 2019, and it is currently in its eighth application window. The programme is planned to run until the Distribution Code change comes into effect on 01 September 2022.

A programme of targeted engagement has been in progress to drive more applications from UK Power Networks distributed generators. This has included distribution of letters to c.1,600 sites that have not yet applied to the programme late in 2020 which proved to be very successful in driving more applications. In April 2021, UKPN distributed letters to a further c. 800 sites. Direct phone and email communication has been ongoing with owners of sites in the 5-50 MW range in order to drive compliance from the sites with the highest impact on the system.

The following table provides summary information on the total applications received by UK Power Networks from generators or their contractors making changes under this programme.

Key progress highlights:

  • 60% of the MW capacity in our areas have applied to make changes through the programme or have confirmed compliance outside of the programme.
  • 70% of sites in the 5-50 MW bracket in our areas have applied through the programme or confirmed compliance outside of the programme. A further 10% so far have acknowledged or committed to making changes following our engagement.
Key metrics for the Loss of Mains programme UKPN
Total No. Applications  794
Total MW Capacity of applications  2.8GW
No. sites with completed works 548
Capacity of sites with completed works 1.8 GW
Total payments made to generators  £1.02m

 

Flexibility Services

Energy flexibility is an integral part of our transition to a DSO, allowing us to manage the network, build a more resilient grid and save money for our cust…

Energy flexibility is an integral part of our transition to a DSO, allowing us to manage the network, build a more resilient grid and save money for our customers.

In this emerging market, UK Power Networks is buying ‘flexibility’ from a range of organisations that can alter their energy generation or consumption as a service. Procuring flexibility helps us balance supply with demand by turning supply up or demand down, depending on what is happening on our network. The rapid rise in smaller-scale renewable generation such as wind and solar farms, along with new storage and electric vehicle technologies, has helped to create this new market.

This year we have awarded £30m of contracts for 350MW of flexible power from our spring 2021 Flex Tender – our biggest ever flexibility tender award and still the UK’s highest value tender. This is almost three times more volume than was procured in 2020. We awarded contracts at 137 zones including 77 high voltage zones and 60 low voltage zones.

We have significantly expanded the market year-on-year by making more zones available, from the extra high voltage network right down to the low voltage network, opening revenue opportunities to more people. We were the first network operator in the UK to offer flexibility at the low voltage level, and the only one to offer contracts for as little as 10kW (equivalent to four homes) across our product range, helping to unlock residential access and participation in flexibility markets. As a result, we have seen rapid growth in residential flexibility participating in our tenders which accounts for almost a third of our contract awards.

Through weekly surgeries we met with and supported 59 companies ahead of our spring 2021 tender. Our external flexibility newsletter is now shared with over 350 subscribers and our last bi-annual Flexibility Forum was attended by 40 organisations. Stakeholder engagement is a key pillar for UK Power Networks in enabling the flexibility market, allowing us to provide regular updates and capture feedback.

We are leading a national effort for standardised flexibility products across networks by chairing the ENA’s Open Networks project and we have supported the development and implemented standardised flexibility contracts and evaluation methodologies.  We are also making more information available on our recently launched flexibility hub including zone data files and new market reports.

We are constantly looking for new opportunities to use smart interventions such as flexibility services to help us better manage the network, and for the first time this summer we have used flexibility to support a network outage.

Key stakeholder outcomes:

  • Unlocked 350MW contracted flexibility capacity, deferring £95.5m network reinforcement by 2028
  • 493% expansion of flexibility tender locations, resulting in the highest flexibility award of any DNO, spanning 60 LV locations

Stimulated new participation from domestic batteries and EVs with a three-fold increase to 248MW, equivalent to a gas-fired power station.

Stephen Day, CTO at Social Energy, said:“We are excited to be working with UKPN to help residential customers unlock the full potential of their solar-battery systems, and further drive down their energy costs.”

We’ve launched our dedicated online flexibility hub, available here.

In 2021 we have developed an automated flexibility dispatch interface using Web Application Programming Interface (API) and successfully dispatched DER resources to address network problems. Adoption of Web API approach will replace traditional methods of email dispatch thereby, enabling easy and faster integration of flexibility providers to our network. We will continue to assess and enhance this technology and work with the industry on standardisation.

Powerful CB

The Powerful-CB project aims to demonstrate that fault-limiting circuit breakers (FLCBs) can enable distribution network operators (DNOs) to connect more dis…

The Powerful-CB project aims to demonstrate that fault-limiting circuit breakers (FLCBs) can enable distribution network operators (DNOs) to connect more distributed generation (DG) to fault level constrained 11 kV electricity networks without the need for reinforcement.

We have been working with our technology partner to develop a FLCB for use at primary substations and it operates 20 times faster than existing vacuum circuit breakers. This is the world’s first demonstration of a FLCB with a fast commutating switch.

This high-speed operation can mitigate fault level contributions from distributed generation, allowing us to connect more DG to fault-level constrained networks including dense urban areas where space may be constrained using other fault mitigation technologies.

If proven successful, Powerful CB could facilitate the connection of more distributed generation faster and more cost effectively, potentially saving customers across Great Britain up to £400m by 2050.

Smart Connect

UK Power Networks Smart Connect portal has revolutionised the process of connecting low carbon technology to the local electricity network. Described as a …

UK Power Networks Smart Connect portal has revolutionised the process of connecting low carbon technology to the local electricity network. Described as a ‘game-changer’ by Octopus Energy, the industry-first portal has made it faster and easier than ever before for customers to be part of the transition to net zero and go electric.

Smart Connect uses a combination of automation and innovative rules-based network assessments to automatically assess connections and respond to customers. The new portal allows users to get an instant decision on whether they can connect domestic electric vehicle charge points, heat pumps, battery storage or solar PV, to the local electricity network without further work. It removes the need for multiple paper forms, streamlining and speeding up the process. We developed and launched Smart Connect after close collaboration with project partner Octopus Electric Vehicles to address feedback that the old process for domestic vehicle-to-grid projects was confusing and time-consuming. The portal was trailed with different customers including domestic consumers to ensure it is fit for purpose and scalable in turn enabling UK Power Networks to facilitate more clean technologies as customers take part in the transition to net zero.

We have automatically approved over a third of all domestic LCT connections submitted through Smart Connect, saving customers an average of 5 days per LCT connection. Based on information submitted by installers, we can proactively contact customers to arrange an upgrade to their electricity supply if required. One in five applications Smart Connect applications are referred for this service, providing a faster, seamless and scalable service to support growing LCT uptake.

Albena Ivanova, Octopus Electric Vehicles, said: “The launch of the portal will be a game changer for customers and installers alike, making the connection assessment and process fast and transparent.”

Visit the portal here.

Striving to be the UK's most environmentally responsible DNO

UK Power Networks is a standard bearer in facilitating the transition to a Net Zero economy through electric vehicles, electric heating and renewable energy.…

UK Power Networks is a standard bearer in facilitating the transition to a Net Zero economy through electric vehicles, electric heating and renewable energy. We also take responsibility for our own carbon footprint and continually look for ways to reduce the environmental impact of our business.

Our environmental strategy is to minimise our impact, lead by example and support the transition to a Net Zero. In 2017/18, we launched our Green Action Plan. We are taking a long-term view of our environmental responsibilities.

As part of our Green Action Plan, we’ve replaced 660,000 virgin plastic bottles with 100% recycled plastic, and our property estate is now supplied on a contract using 100% renewable energy. Other key successes include:

  • Saving 2,000 tonnes of carbon by deploying the new amorphous steel transformers at scale
  • 3,600 miles saved per year by reducing inefficiencies in the supply chain
  • Reduced the plastic incorporated in water bottles by half and greenhouse gases associated with manufacturing by 70%, saving 41,000+ litres of fuel oil in the manufacturing process
  • The battery chainsaws will help improve work conditions for 200 people for 9,400+ hours a year, by reducing harmful emissions and fuel wastage
  • Eliminated 290 hard cases for our power tools – equivalent to 150,000 plastic bags.
  • 6,000 tonnes of carbon saved annually by purchasing 100% renewable energy

 

Green Energy

UK Power Networks is committed to continuing to reduce its carbon footprint. In 2020/21 our overall carbon emissions were 23,936 tCO2e below our 2014/15 baseline, a 30.9% reduction and surpassing our initial stakeholder target of 2% each year. In 2021 we became the first UK DNO with a science based target verified by the Science based target initiative. Our target is a 25% reduction by 2028 on all our carbon, including network losses and our supply chain, against a 2018/19 baseline.

One of the key ways we contribute to reducing the UK’s carbon emissions is by facilitating more low-carbon electricity generation on our network. From 2012 to 2021 there was a 53.8% reduction in the UK’s electricity system. This means that using the same electrical appliance in 2021 uses less than half the carbon it did in 2012.

In autumn 2018, we launched the Green Action Plan, which contains ambitious environmental targets. We believe this plan gives us best-in-class environmental credentials, taking us above and beyond not only our ED1 business plan commitments, but also those of our peers. The creation and execution of Green Action Plan are only achievable through direct customer engagement. It was initially presented in draft to our Critical Friends Panels (CFPs), where we invited participants to challenge its contents and help shape it.

They added new ideas and set stringent targets on air quality and biodiversity. This helped to make it a better strategy. It now includes commitments to achieve recognition from stretching external accreditation, such as through the Carbon Trust. We have also adopted the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals. This demonstrates and reaffirms our commitment to enabling social progress and clean growth at the same time protecting the environment.

Find out more about our Green Action Plan

As part of our Green Action Plan, we are deploying new alternately-fuelled hybrid generators to significantly lower carbon emissions while keeping customers on supply during power cuts. On rare occasions, we deploy back-up generators to keep power supplies 99.99% reliable for millions of customers in London, the South East and East of England. We do this to keep our customers safe and warm, especially during periods of bad weather when power cuts are more likely to occur. The Cleaner Engines project aims to test alternatively-fuelled hybrid generators which produce fewer carbon emissions than those currently in use.

We are investigating three types of hybrid generators running on three different alternative fuels:

  • Biofuel (hydrotreated vegetable oil – HVO)
  • Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
  • Glycerine

In the project, we are working with two suppliers to design, build and demonstrate these innovative generator technologies. We are testing these different alternatives to make sure we ultimately select the one which provides the best performance, efficiency, reliability and emissions reduction.

In 2018, we also become the first utility company in London to adopt a fleet of electric vans, taking delivery of eight Renault Kangoo vans to serve our customers across the city. Our electric vehicle experts in the Innovation and Smart Grid teams played a key role as members of the Mayor of London’s EV Taskforce. We’ve committed to enabling the delivery of London’s first five flagship rapid charging hubs, which will enable multiple vehicles to be charged in one place.

The first three months of 2021 saw 37% of the UK’s electricity generated by renewables, this is a 14% drop compared to the first three months of 2020, due to a decrease in the amount of offshore wind output. In the three months to March 2021, renewables made up 36% of the UK generation mix (Offshore wind 16%, onshore wind 10%, bioenergy 8%, and solar 2%). This cannot be calculated for our networks alone, however we have currently connected 9.7GW of distributed generation – of which 7.2GW is renewable energy, including 3.3GW of Solar PV, 1.5GW of wind. It total, it equatesto more than double the capacity of the planned £20bn Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station.

Electric vehicles (EVs)

We relish the challenge of enabling the electric transport revolution and will deliver this through our forward thinking EV readiness strategy.  …

We relish the challenge of enabling the electric transport revolution and will deliver this through our forward thinking EV readiness strategy.

 

By segmenting our focus into four areas, we are taking a strategic approach to enabling the electric revolution at the lowest cost to our customers.

We have developed best-in-class forecasting. Developing industry-leading forecasting tools through projects such as Recharge the Future means we can predict down to unprecedented granularity when and where EV-related load will increase on our network.

We are also investing £41m over four years in targeted granular network monitoring. We are installing strategically-targeted Low Voltage monitoring in substations that we predict will be affected by EV load, with 600 being installed in 2019. We also understand the value of grid edge equipment in building a wider level of LV visibility, so we are partnering with third party intermediaries to collaborate on data.

We are working constructively with government, installers and industry leaders to address the barriers to the rollout of EV charging infrastructure. Together, with a leading economic consultancy, we developed a bespoke framework to assess how the barriers impact each of the key EV charging market segments. This research allowed us to identify that publicly used charge points faced the biggest challenge and there was added social value in us intervening in these markets. Consequently, we co-developed a framework on how DNOs can work with public and private bodies to support investment in public charging infrastructure where the market is failing to develop. We tested our recommendations for a joint planning approach delivered by the market with a range of stakeholders who supported our proposal and we will be trialling this approach subject to government and Ofgem approval.

We are also using our previous experience to help reduce connection costs via improved co-ordination and planning. Building on our work with Transport for London on electrifying the London bus fleet, we worked with BEIS to identify the most cost effective approach to roll-out ultra-fast public charging at motorway service stations to alleviate range anxiety. This co-ordinated and collaborative effort has identified savings of £40m across 19 motorway service stations.

Engaging with Local Government

78% of local authorities we serve have declared a climate emergency and increasingly need data to understand the potential increase in Low Carbon Technologie…

78% of local authorities we serve have declared a climate emergency and increasingly need data to understand the potential increase in Low Carbon Technologies across their communities and to develop climate action plans. Councils told us they see our granular Distribution Future Energy Scenarios (DFES) as a valuable input to their decarbonisation plans, but many don’t have the capabilities to analyse the data on our Open Data portal themselves.  To ensure we produced data that was usable in the real world and supported the local government, we developed bespoke ‘heat maps’ overlaying DFES data onto local areas and shared these with local authorities.

The feedback we received after doing this was positive and led us to hold focussed sessions with local authorities in our area to explore co-developing an interactive tool to make it easier for them and other stakeholders to use our forecasts to inform their climate policies. Working with Open Data Institute Leeds and local authorities we designed and trialled a new tool that allows stakeholders to visualise and download data in ready-to-use formats.

As a result of our work, 127 regional government bodies have been given access to the tool providing accessible, ready to use data to inform climate action plans, with 90% of local authorities who responded to our survey said they plan to use DFES data going forward.

Sandra Norval, West Sussex County Council, said: “The visualisations are so much easier to interpret than the raw datasets and will be invaluable in developing our plans to support decarbonisation of public transport as part of our ambition to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions for our operations by 2030.”

Charge Collective

We need to be ready to support charging for millions of new electric vehicles (EVs) in the 2020s. To accommodate all these new EVs, there will need to be a s…

We need to be ready to support charging for millions of new electric vehicles (EVs) in the 2020s. To accommodate all these new EVs, there will need to be a significant increase in the investment in the number of charge points. To deliver a roll out of charging infrastructure at this scale, we’ll need to work really closely with Local Authorities and charge point developers.

A lack of easily accessible charge points is one of the biggest challenges for people who might want to switch to an electric vehicle. Companies that invest in new charge points face barriers too, because there can be high up-front investment costs combined with a set of market, policy and regulatory failures. This means that charge points aren’t as widespread as they could be in certain areas, therefore holding back the uptake of EVs.

UK Power Networks aims to ensure no one is left behind in the transition to Net Zero and that access to EVs and charging is fair. We developed a new approach to planning on-street charge points in areas where they are needed most, but where investing in public charging has traditionally been uneconomic.

We partnered with Cambridge to bring together councils’ local knowledge, our expertise on network capacity and forecast EV uptake, and CPOs’ delivery experience to ensure charge points are planned in optimal locations to meet community needs. Strategic planning enables a ‘dig once’ approach to upgrading the network to support EVs, delivering investment at the lowest overall cost. We are developing this pathfinder approach further with Norwich and Redbridge by incorporating feedback from resident surveys on barriers to EV uptake and predicted charging behaviours.

Cost was identified as a barrier for some and we launched a tender in Cambridge using Green Recovery Funding to fully offset connection costs. We are also launching competitions to reveal what level of discount on connection costs is needed to incentivise investment in public charging blackspots. Given the progressive nature of this initiative and its pressure on current regulations, we worked with Ofgem through the regulatory sandbox to align regulation to need. Testing of both approaches is underway to evaluate which is the most effective way to ensure customers without off-street charging are not left behind.

From this initial learning, we will use a community-based approach with other local authorities and DNOs through Green Recovery investments, and share learnings with community energy groups, BEIS and OZEV to stimulate greater public charging provision for those without access to off-street parking.

For more information visit the project’s webpage

Councillor Kevin Maguire, cabinet member for safe and sustainable city environment at Norwich City Council, said: “The Charge Collective project will help our city to identify barriers to EV take-up especially in areas of high density housing. It’s important that the electrification of transport is socially inclusive and benefits all sectors of society”.

Norfolk County Council’s two key portfolio leads for the Environment and Transport, Cllr Andy Grant, cabinet member for environment and waste, and Cllr Martin Wilby, cabinet member for  highways, infrastructure and transport, said in a joint statement: “As we move towards a low carbon future, cleaner transport has an important role to play. Building on successful work by Transport for Norwich which has seen cycle use increase by 40% in recent years and the introduction of e-scooters, electric vehicles will be a key part of our strategy in the years ahead. This project seeks to enable and encourage providers to invest in Norfolk, which is crucial if we are to have the charging network we need to support a greener economic future.”

Voyage

The wide scale roll-out of high powered EV charging infrastructure is essential to accelerate the electrification of the transportation sector. Furthermore, …

The wide scale roll-out of high powered EV charging infrastructure is essential to accelerate the electrification of the transportation sector. Furthermore, we must give existing and future owners of EVs confidence that they will have access to high powered chargepoints (150 – 350 kW) in a similar manner to how you can stop at a petrol station for conventional vehicles.

Motorway service areas (MSAs) and service areas in major A-roads have been identified as a specific area in which the roll-out of high powered EV charging infrastructure will be important to build range confidence in consumers. In their Energy White Paper published in December 2020 the UK Government expects around 2,500 high powered chargepoints across England’s Strategic Road Network and has committed £950 million to achieving this target.

Most of the small/medium sized sites are currently connected to the 11kV or LV network with typically no 33kV network near-by. A significant amount of network reinforcements would be required on these sites in order to power high powered chargepoints. This would be expensive, time consuming and take up a large amount of space in areas where space is already limited.

Project Voyage is developing and trialling a standardised substation that can be delivered in kit form which is compact, lower in cost and faster in delivery to support the nation-wide mass rollout at small/medium sized MSA sites and service areas on major A-roads. The scalable design allows locations to add capacity in 1.5 MVA blocks to match growing demand or to accommodate multiple CPOs (Charge Point Operators). Lowering upfront investment whilst providing flexibility to expand, if proven successful, the compact substation will be made available to the market for rapid deployment.

The new substation design which fits within a single parking space and can be delivered and deployed to the charging site 2 weeks faster, takes 20-50% less space that traditional solutions and will improve access to charge points across the UK.

Unlocking Flexibility

To deliver Net Zero at the lowest cost to customers, UK Power Networks is looking at ways to incentivise customers to shift their energy use when it is cheap…

To deliver Net Zero at the lowest cost to customers, UK Power Networks is looking at ways to incentivise customers to shift their energy use when it is cheaper and greener to do so. Through our project Shift, we have gained a better understanding of consumer behaviour to design attractive flexibility products to maximise participation and value.

We partnered with forward thinking energy companies to develop and run UK-first trials of a range of smart charging products, with over 2,000 EV owners in control of how they respond to financial incentives. Through the trials and our customer surveys, we found that most EV drivers smart charge majority of the time, while 7.5% of customers manually started a charging session more often than they smart charged. This insight validates that customers want to stay in control of their EV charging and allows us to factor this real-world behaviour into our network planning.

We worked with our partners to identify which aspects of customer behaviour can be influenced through proposition design. Octopus Energy’s customer survey found 83% of customers responded to tariff signals by moving the demand of other devices alongside their EV, such as dishwashers and washing machines. This insight will help us develop products that optimise existing network capacity, minimising cost and customer disruption.

Nick Woolley, CEO and co-founder of ev.energy said: “Realising the full potential of market-led smart charging requires collaboration across industry to deliver the right market structure and consumer incentives. UK Power Networks’ market-led approach is innovative and supports widespread adoption of smart charging, which is a win for customers by reducing energy costs, a win for the network by reducing congestion, and a win for society by supporting a zero-carbon grid. Together through Project Shift, we have shown that smart electric vehicle charging has a role to play in helping utilities like UK Power Networks avoid constraints and support a zero-carbon grid.”

Conor Maher-McWilliams, Kaluza’s head of flexibility said: “Priming our networks for EV smart charging now will allow millions of consumers to reap the rewards in the years to come. By implementing the right market structures, we can bring simple and affordable charging to drivers while their cars power the transition to a zero-carbon energy system. After only one year of the landmark Shift trial, we have demonstrated how market-led smart charging can work locally, for real customers, and we look forward to building on this progress with our technology.”

Greg Jackson, CEO and founder of Octopus Energy said: “Sales of electric cars have increased 10-fold in the last five years because they are simply better than diesel and petrol. Whilst they are still a minority of cars on the road, many people say that their next car will be their first electric or their last fossil fuel. Meeting the demand for all this extra electricity will be cheapest if we use our existing infrastructure to the max. Smart charging – filling cars with renewable electrons at times when the network is under-utilised – will help make green driving cheap driving. Crucially, it reduces costs for everyone by getting more out of the system.”

Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G)

Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology offers tremendous potential to integrate more low carbon technologies onto the network and help manage the forecasted growth…

Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology offers tremendous potential to integrate more low carbon technologies onto the network and help manage the forecasted growth of electricity demand in the UK. We forecast up to 380k V2G charge points on our network alone by 2030 and UK Power Networks is leading the way in demonstrating this technology through the TransPower project.

Running until July 2022, TransPower will investigate the network impact of V2G and develop vital learnings about how we can develop a market to harness this emerging technology. Through the project, we are partnering with vehicle manufacturers, energy suppliers, technology providers and academics to design and test V2G with domestic customers, electric buses and commercial fleets.

As part of TransPower, we are involved in the following trials ar, covering different segments of the EV market:

  • Bus2Grid: Supporting a project to turn a 28-bus garage into the first of its kind in the UK V2G bus garage
  • E4Future: A V2G trial with commercial fleet vehicles operating on a back-to-base charging model
  • PowelLoop: Domestic V2G trial involving 135 customers across our electricity network
  • V2Street: Public charging networks with a local authority and a charge point provider. Targeted at the 60-70% of Londoners without off-street charging capability

UK-wide installers told us the application process for small-scale V2G installations which requires multiple application forms is too complex and presents a barrier to uptake. Through working with the Energy Networks Association and companies such as Octopus Electric Vehicles and Nuvve, we led the creation and testing of a simpler and faster UK-wide application process to facilitate this rapidly emerging technology.

Over the past year we have observed growing interest in V2G from domestic consumers, stimulated by increased coverage of V2G in the media including an episode of Fully Charged Plus on Powerloop. Customer appetite for more dynamic V2G products and insights into real-world customer behaviour from Shift are informing the development of a new V2G services for domestic consumers in the ongoing trials with Octopus EV.

To enable stakeholders around the globe to keep abreast of the latest trends and learnings from V2G projects, we partnered with Government funding body Innovate UK to develop the V2G Hub  to further disseminate data across the industry, showcasing 67 pioneering V2G projects across 17 countries for a total of 5300+ chargers.

Optimise Prime

Optimise Prime is the world’s biggest trial of commercial EVs. It seeks to develop practical solutions to the challenges preventing fleet vehicle operators…

Optimise Prime is the world’s biggest trial of commercial EVs. It seeks to develop practical solutions to the challenges preventing fleet vehicle operators from going electric. It will develop technical and commercial solutions to save customer more than £200m by 2030 and enable the faster transition to electric for commercial fleets and private hire vehicle operators. The project is also playing a vital role in helping the UK meet its carbon reduction targets. The accelerated adoption of commercial EVs will save 2.7m tonnes of CO2, equivalent to London’s entire bus fleet running for four years or a full Boeing 747-400 travelling around the world 1,484 times. The flexibility provided by the project will also free up enough capacity on the electricity network to supply a million homes.

A key solution being developed is a flexible demand connection offering called a profiled connection which will be trialled as part of the Depot Trial which extends the timed connection offering by providing up to 48 half-hourly time slots in which the maximum power requirement can potentially be varied. This will allow customers who have flexible loads, such as EVs in the case of Optimise Prime, to control the imported power by using behind the meter smart control solutions to follow an agreed profile which will result in the increased utilisation of existing network capacity, avoiding costly reinforcements and resulting in quicker connections for customers.

White Van Plan

We know that electric vehicles will play a crucial role in reaching the UK’s 2050 Net Zero carbon emissions target, but we don’t yet know how small compa…

We know that electric vehicles will play a crucial role in reaching the UK’s 2050 Net Zero carbon emissions target, but we don’t yet know how small companies will adapt. The White Van Plan project is investigating the needs of SMEs to allow us to facilitate their transition to zero emission vehicles. As part of our leadership in the Mayor of London’s EV taskforce and partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), we learnt that to support small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in their EV transition, we need to understand the unique challenges faced by this large and diverse group. Hard-to-reach SMEs are likely to be left behind in the EV transition, and may struggle with transport electrification without adequate support.

White Van Plan is the first of its kind, engaging with and helping small businesses owners from all sectors make the transition to EVs. We’ve developed an extensive data set to map out how the switch to EVs might look for the 2.3 million small businesses in our area. White Van Plan has now engaged with over 1,200 small businesses across all sectors to develop extensive data sets to understand exactly what SMEs need and what UK Power Networks can do to help them make the transition. We have created a segmentation of the SME market, and gained an understanding of specific needs of SMEs which will allow us to tailor support in the transition to a low carbon economy.

David Savage, Manager of Savage & Sons Electrical Limited, Bedfordshire, said: “For small companies to be interested in EVs, it is vital they understand the potential financial benefits and get extra support, especially during the challenges we are facing right now. It’s great to hear about projects like White Van Plan aimed at helping companies like ours.”

Security

Historically, extreme weather has been the primary risk for which we have had to be prepared. However, in recent years cyber-attacks have become increasingly high risk. Criminal activity and terrorism is not new, but its threats are ever more complex. The Covid-19 pandemic has demanded even more changes to how our business operates to keep the lights on for our customers, and with this, there are a number of new cyber threats and challenges to overcome.

The protection and resilience of our information and operational technology is a priority for UK Power Networks. We have a dedicated cyber security team and specialist support partners who oversee and operate a comprehensive set of cyber security controls and measures. These are compliant to ISO27001 and legal requirements of Smart Energy Code and the Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive, which covers the cyber resilience of our energy control systems. In 2020, UK Power Networks reported full compliance with the NCSC Basic CAF Profile and we are certified as complaint with the Cyber Essentials scheme as published by the UK National Cyber Security Centre.

Our resilience is an essential enabler to providing uninterrupted service to our customers at all times, despite expected or unexpected disruptions. Working with the Cabinet Office and its Emergency Planning College (EPC), we were the first Distribution Network Operator in the UK to have our functions of Organisational Resilience independently reviewed, based upon the BS 65000:2014. We have continued these reviews annually to embed our resilience strategy in the business and ensure we continue to improve year on year.

Our Organisational Resilience Leadership Team, chaired by our Director of Network Operations, is made up of Directors and Senior Managers and reports to our Executive Management Team on a regular basis. As one of our top ten strategic projects, we have placed an enormous amount of focus and effort on enhancing our resilience each year. We align our resilience standards to those issued by the Government and other industries that are traditionally considered ‘Best in Class’ for their resilience. This work has served us well; our fortified response to the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that we have been able to continue to operate and provide a high standard of service to our customers throughout.

Key actions we’ve taken in 2020/21:

  • Used Business Continuity Plans (BCP) throughout the entire business with positive results
  • Rigorously tested the plans and dependencies used in real life circumstances and made improvements where necessary
  • Strengthened resilience at a local level through our membership of Resilience First, providing advice and support to the business community
  • Integrated risk management and organisational resilience at a strategic level through an Organisational Resilience Leadership Team and six, monthly risk-related forums
  • Invested in our cyber security, with an average of 3,442 system events per second processed by our automated cyber monitoring
  • Simulated monthly “phishing” emails to over 6000 employees. This was a 600% increase in testing from 2020, which resulted in a reduction of 4% in users who failed the test and required follow-up training
  • Reviewed access to administrative accounts on a monthly basis
  • Equipped over 6000 staff with the skills needed to identify and respond to possible cyber-attacks through our “security matters” cyber awareness campaign
  • Processed an average of 3688 system events per second through our automated cyber monitoring solution
  • Blocked a total of 40.1 million threats through email and web filtering technologies
  • Completed supply chain assurance reviews for all critical suppliers

Industry Collaboration

We have compared and contrasted our own resilience preparedness with industry peers and non-energy companies, lead UK Government Department for Business, Ene…

We have compared and contrasted our own resilience preparedness with industry peers and non-energy companies, lead UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC); UK energy sector groups such as the Electricity Networks Association (ENA) and The Energy Emergencies Executive Cyber Committee (E3CC), Chair the General Electric (GE) Security Forum.

UK Power Networks has collaborated with leading network and security providers such as Cisco, to design the IP network of the future digital substation, and FortiNet who provided key industry information to enhance the design, specification and manufacture of industrial network switches that meet IEC61850 standards.

In November 2020, UK Power Networks ran a crisis simulation exercise organised by the Data Protection Officer and General Counsel and led by an external legal partner. This exercise included key members of the Incident Leadership Team such as the Director of Finance and the Director for Customer Service, Strategy, Regulation as well as representatives from key areas such as Cyber Security, CIO, Head of IS Operations, Legal, DPO and Risk and Assurance.

The scenario tested how ready the business was to respond to a realistic and serious cyber-attack in a safe environment. The scenario brought together a series situations based on real life events to simulate a cyber-attack.  At each stage, the team was asked to consider how they would react to those circumstances, what potential issues could arise and what practical steps the team would take.

Customer Empowerment & Satisfaction

As the UK’s largest electricity distributor, delivering power to more than 19 million people in the South East and East of England, ensuring that our customers receive the best possible service is at the heart of the business.

In 2020/21, UK Power Networks achieved its highest ever customer satisfaction rating of 92.8 making us the number one ranked Distribution Network in the UK for delivering customer satisfaction. This covers the breadth of our services including everything from power cuts and connection services to general maintenance services.

In 2020, we achieved our best ever performance and first place in Ofgem’s annual stakeholder engagement and consumer vulnerability scheme. The scheme measures how effectively regulated energy companies engage with stakeholders to shape the services they provide. Ofgem praised us for our caring approach to help customers in vulnerable circumstances including fuel poverty. Building on this work, this year UK Power Networks has held more than 1000 engagements reaching over 23,000 stakeholders in a year. Such a focus on engagement lead to 358 positive outcomes for customers, our highest number ever.

We also clinched two awards at the annual Network Awards 2020, hosted by Networks Magazine. In a virtual ceremony, UK Power Networks received the accolade for ‘Network of the Year’ for our industry-leading performance as well as Stakeholder Engagement Initiative of the Year due to our ‘Lifting Families out of Fuel Poverty’ initiative, informed directly by our customers and shaped alongside our Fuel Poverty partners.

We continue to be ranked in the top half of the utility industry league table, for the Institute of Customer Service’s UK Customer Satisfaction Index. Between July 2020 and July 2021, UK Power Networks climbed the league table ten places, going from the 14th spot to the fourth. We are the first DNO to feature in this national customer service index and the top ranked DNO in the UK.

Trustpilot is Europe’s leading consumer review website, receiving over one million new reviews each month. Nearly 2,000 customers have rated our services, over 20x more than any other utility network in the UK. We maintain an “Excellent” Trust Pilot rating with five stars, a UK utility first further demonstrating our best in class service offering.

The energy sector is undergoing unprecedented change and, as part of that, our customers’ needs are changing too. To ensure we are always at the forefront and keeping pace with their evolving needs, we look across the horizon to anticipate the next big developments. We keep a real close eye on how our customers are feeling about the service we provide through industry surveys and our own feedback mechanisms.

This year, during the global pandemic and while the UK continues with its decarbonisation ambitions, we have particularly looked at the changing needs of our customers. As people worked and schooled from home they relied more and more on electricity services for traditional heating, lighting and cooking needs, as well as for digital, device and communication requirements, not forgetting charging their electric vehicles for transport. We are constantly reviewing and assessing the needs of our customers, and looking at how we can personalise our services and the support we provide. It is essential to make our services easy, reliable, and to keep our customers informed and up-to-date throughout their experience with us. Our quest for customer feedback and insights to shape our service offerings is reflected in what our partners say about us.

Emma Hopkins, Director, Explain, said: “UK Power Networks wanted to find out what really mattered to customers when it came to the services they provide, adding another layer to their insights, as what people told us was based on real, first-hand experience. Robust feedback came from people who had a stake in the business doing better because they had been active users of its services. People enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to co-create service improvements too.  It paid off due to the quality and scale of the insights received.”

Real time management of the customer experience

We receive hundreds of pieces of customer feedback every day on what our customers think and feel about our service. This is achieved through text surveys us…

We receive hundreds of pieces of customer feedback every day on what our customers think and feel about our service. This is achieved through text surveys using a solution called Rant and Rave as well as proactive calls to our customers keeping them updated. We also receive customer satisfaction scores and gain insight through customer enquiries and complaints.

We know that understanding and managing the customer experience in real time is vital. Through a data analytical tool and dashboard, we are able to;  consolidate data, understand how the operation of the network is impacting customers in specific geographical locations, predict the impact power cuts are having on the customers affected and determine what service and support they will require based on their historical feedback and levels of satisfaction.

This tool and dashboard is data driven and available across the organisation to every field supervisor, providing a single view of customer experiences. It has been key to enabling us to manage customer service in real time aligned with our ideal customer journeys as well as recover where service is not being delivered right-first-time and spot gaps in service delivery to continuously improve.

The tool has also enabled UK Power Networks to:

  • provide more channels for customers to communicate and engage with us, ensuring they are kept up to date
  • offer opportunities to self-serve
  • deliver targeted and tailored information
  • make our services faster

Internal Customer Satisfaction

Our approach to internal service is treating colleagues as customers. This model has been key to develop an organisational culture of service excellence. We …

Our approach to internal service is treating colleagues as customers. This model has been key to develop an organisational culture of service excellence. We measure internal customer service in parallel with our external customer service, and any teams where service is below target develop improvement plans based on the customer feedback and insight.

We have developed dashboards to allow internal customer satisfaction performance to be readily visible and easily understood. We also include questions about our service culture in our monthly employee engagement polling. This has shown a direct correlation between the improvements in our external customer satisfaction score of almost 93 and our internal customer satisfaction score, which has increased to 92 from 90 the previous year.

Green Recovery

Tackling climate change and supporting the UK to reach Net Zero is important to UK Power Networks and our customers.  As the largest UK Distribution Network…

Tackling climate change and supporting the UK to reach Net Zero is important to UK Power Networks and our customers.  As the largest UK Distribution Network Operator, it is essential that we facilitate the transition to Net Zero and ensure that no one is left behind. In February 2021, UK Power Networks announced an additional £80m investment to kick-start projects that contribute towards the UK’s commitment to reach Net Zero by 2050. The programme follows the Government’s announcement in November 2020 of a Ten Point Plan to boost the ‘Green Recovery’ and enable the country to reach its target of Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050. We invited bids from shovel-ready low carbon energy projects that require a high or low voltage electricity connection in the next two years.

Green Recovery is supporting successful bidders who demonstrated their project helps enable the low carbon transition. This includes installing rapid electric vehicle charging stations in local communities, energy generators looking to connect more renewable energy to the electricity network, local heat networks or community energy projects. The successful projects will be announced in summer 2021, with a focus on funded projects that can be delivered in 2021 or 2022 to make sure the project has immediate impact.

Innovation

UK Power Networks is at the forefront of the low carbon energy revolution. Innovation has a crucial role to play in keeping our customers’ lights on. It is…

UK Power Networks is at the forefront of the low carbon energy revolution. Innovation has a crucial role to play in keeping our customers’ lights on. It is helping us prepare for a low carbon future while ensuring we continue to improve the service we give our customers today. Our projects aim to make our network safer and more reliable as well as ensure technology of the future are accessible for everyone as we transition to net zero and the uptake in low carbon technologies continues to rise.

Enable

As the UK transitions to Net Zero and more people shift to zero emission electric vehicles, it is estimated around 1.35 million drivers with disabilities acr…

As the UK transitions to Net Zero and more people shift to zero emission electric vehicles, it is estimated around 1.35 million drivers with disabilities across the UK will be reliant on public charging infrastructure. UK Power Networks has formed a partnership with national charity Motability to help disabled drivers make the switch to electric vehicles.

Disabled motorists who do not have access to off-street parking will require on-street charging solutions as they transition to EVs. These motorists will have specific needs, with limited flexibility on where they can park and accessibility concerns for charging solutions.

To ensure no one gets left behind in the transition to net zero, UK Power Networks is working with Motability to identify the specific needs of disabled EV drivers who park on-street to ensure they have the infrastructure they need to charge their electric cars.

The project will map out where charging infrastructure is needed to support drivers with disabilities. The maps will be developed with local authorities to inform their Local Area Energy Plans. Enable is working closely with a number of forward thinking local authorities to identify and address the key barriers preventing drivers with disabilities making the switch to EVs. Key factors include access to and accessibility of charge points near their home and the associated lack of information for prospective drivers looking to switch.

Uncovering the needs of disabled EV drivers and identifying the locations of disabled parking bays will allow for better cooperation with local authorities and targeted investment in public infrastructure in the right places.

Catherine Marris, Head of Innovation at Motability, said: “As a national disability charity, we welcome UK Power Networks’ ground-breaking research that will ensure the involved local authorities can meet the mobility needs of disabled drivers in time for the upcoming energy transition. There is a robust commercial and social case for ensuring that future electric vehicle charging infrastructure is accessible for all and we are pleased to be a part of this inclusive and forward-thinking project, which will help inform our own UK-wide initiatives on accessible charging.”

Line Search

UK Power Networks provides maps of our network to third parties to our cables to keep them safe while digging on site.  We provide maps to a range of stakeh…

UK Power Networks provides maps of our network to third parties to our cables to keep them safe while digging on site.  We provide maps to a range of stakeholders from other utilities, contractors and developers to the public and landowners who are undertaking work near the network.

Occasionally, data recording can be inaccurate due to the historical difficulties of locating assets before technology was available and therefore increases risk to workers. To combat this, we have embedded an online customer survey into our network maps. To improve the quality of the network and information we provide, the survey results are now incorporated into our geographic information system (GIS) and are accessible on our web app (GSA).  The information is displayed on a heat map to ensure those using the map can fully understand the data. Furthermore, the GIS team actively use the GSA application to determine any issues with the network data and work to correct it.

Feedback from customers and users in the area where the survey was trialled was positive and as a result the solution was rolled out across our whole network area, improving the safety of thousands of people and the data inaccuracy on our network.

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