UK energy regulator Ofgem has announced that six projects are to share £57 million of funding to help local power networks become smarter. The money comes from Ofgem’s £500 million Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCN Fund). The projects will run in several areas across Britain, piloting new technology and commercial arrangements.
They will create learning which will be shared amongst all local grid companies so they can develop the networks of the future. Innovation could reduce the need to invest in new network assets such as substations or overhead lines by making better use of those which are already there.
Rachel Fletcher, Ofgem’s acting senior partner for Smarter Grids, Governance and Distribution, says: “Britain’s energy grids need to undergo a revolution in how they are run so they can connect more renewable generators and a range of low carbon technologies such as ground source heat pumps. There is a significant opportunity for companies to contain the cost of this transition by making better use of existing capacity and exploring the scope to use demand side response.”
He continues: “Lessons learnt from the projects will be shared with all network companies and other interested parties. The aim here is to ensure that the networks do not hold up the decarbonisation of our energy use, and that the cost of this transition is kept as low as possible for customers.”
One of the projects involves installing electric storage batteries in homes, schools and an office to see if customers could be encouraged to use this stored electricity at times of peak demand. This would reduce the load on the networks and mean customers would be rewarded with lower bills.
Another project involves using network capacity which up to now, has only been used in the event of outages due to power cuts or planned maintenance. This ‘latent’ capacity could be used to connect more renewables without impacting on secure supplies. Several projects involve better use of existing network capacity to manage congestion on the grid, or looking at how more low carbon generation can be connected without having to build new power lines.