Smart substation trial set to “spearhead” net zero

UK Power Networks (UKPN) has been given the green light to trial a world-first innovation project after a successful bid to Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition fund.

On 30 November, it outlined how Constellation will see powerful computers installed in a series of substations, optimising use of the substations to free up capacity and help to facilitate the rise in renewable generation. Highlighting that the volume of distributed generation is forecast to rise to 65GW in 2050 – up from 26GW today – UKPN said it’s aiming to adapt to increasingly complex power flows by becoming smarter. Constellation, it added, will mark a “transformation” in the way electricity networks operate.

The project will allow for local substations to analyse millions of data points with regards to how the network is running. This will enable the network to reconfigure itself to safely permit higher volumes of electricity to flow. The project will also act as a foundation for many other smart solutions, paving the way for further benefits for customers. According to UKPN, Constellation hopes to release 1.4GW of capacity, which is enough to power over 700,000 homes, and save consumers more than £750mn by 2050 – should it provide a success and end up being rolled out nationwide.

News of UKPN’s smart substation trial was followed by the utility being named as a world leader in smart grids on 1 December by SP Group’s annual Smart Grid Index. UKPN highlighted the work of its Smart Grid Development Team in 2020, which had continued to look to lead the way in pioneering new markets for renewable energy through its flexibility tenders. In the autumn, it made over £50mn available for providers to bid for 250MW of flexible energy services across 130 sites in what was its largest ever open tender.