UK Power Networks report sets out future vision for electricity distribution system in East Anglia

UK Power Networks is responding to changing demands on the electricity distribution system.
Picture

UK Power Networks is responding to changing demands on the electricity distribution system. Picture: Darren Cool/Connors - Credit: Archant

That’s the view of regional electricity distributor UK Power Networks (UKPN) which has set out plans for how to meet growing demands on the system from trends such as electric vehicles, “smart” home appliances and renewable energy production.

UK Power Networks is providing faster and cheaper connections for sites feeding energy into the syst

UK Power Networks is providing faster and cheaper connections for sites feeding energy into the system from installations such as solar panels and wind turbines. Picture: UK Power Networks - Credit: Archant

UKPN is Britain’s largest electricity distributor with responsibility for keeping the lights on across East Anglia, London and the South East – an area including 18m people.

It is in the process of a transformation from being a “Distribution Network Operator” (DNO), which simply manages the network, to becoming a “Distribution System Operator” (DSO), which will create the flexibility to respond to changing needs.

These include a growing number of locations where the network not only has to deliver electricity but also allow for power from installations such as wind turbines and solar panels to be fed into the system.

A “Flexible Distributed Generation” system – an example of a DSO in action – has already been rolled out to 20 sites in Norfolk and Essex, making it faster and cheaper for new customers to connect their power generation to the network

UK Power Networks chief executive Basil Scarcella.
Picture: Nigel Bowles/JCPA

UK Power Networks chief executive Basil Scarcella. Picture: Nigel Bowles/JCPA - Credit: Nigel Bowles / JCPA


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But the growth in smart appliances in the home and the expected increase in the number of electric vehicles – all needing to be kept charged – will also increase the burden on the system.

And, just as broadband has spawned a host of services such as Netflix, DSO is also likely to result in other, as yet unthought of, services.

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UKPN has now launched a report, called “Future Smart”, as part of a consultation through which it is seeking views from customers and industry experts on how the network needs to develop in order to meet future needs and maintain the security of supply.

Basil Scarsella, chief executive of UKPN, said: “We are on the verge of a change as significant for electricity as the advent of broadband was for telecommunications.

“We are working with policy makers, regulators, academia, SMEs and importantly customers to lay the foundations for an exciting future, which will place customers in control of energy usage.”

The UKPN consultation runs until September 15.

David Smith, chief executive of the Energy Networks Association, of which Mr Scarsella is chairman, added: “The move from traditional Distribution Network Operators to more active and empowered Distribution System Operators, with far greater capabilities to manage local electricity grids, is a major transition for our networks.

“Developing a DSO strategy is a significant step forward to delivering the smart grid, and will present a whole new host of new opportunities for energy networks and consumers.

“Through the Open Networks Project, the networks and the system operator will work together to ensure that they facilitate new technology and services, invest in the most efficient way possible and keep our lights on whilst keeping down costs as we transition to a low carbon economy.”

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