Northern Powergrid launches £1.9m smart grid project

What will the energy system look like in the future, and what’s the best way of integrating low-carbon technologies into the electricity grid? Electrical distribution company Northern Powergrid has launched a three-year project to consider these issues.

The company said that it aims to put its customers at the heart of the smart grid, creating a new energy market where they can make money from solar panels, electric vehicles and home batteries.

Its £1.9m Customer-Led Distribution System project will draw up recommendations on how best to accommodate large volumes of new technologies, such as local generation and electric vehicles, in a future smart energy system and the business models and policies necessary to support them.

Patrick Erwin, Policy and Markets director at Northern Powergrid, said: “The transition to a reliable, cost-effective, low-carbon network offers huge opportunities for the economic prosperity of our region. We want to build this smart grid around the needs of our customers, delivering them the best service at the lowest possible cost.”

As part of the project, researchers at the University of Bath and Newcastle University will develop models and lab demonstrations of distributed energy systems, local energy markets and network operations, tracking flows of energy, payments and information. This virtual system will enable them to explore different approaches, using data from real networks, and allow them to develop strategies that may be used to coordinate network and market operations in the future.

The project comes at a time of “unprecedented change” for the energy system, Northern Powergrid said. Increasing amounts of electricity are being produced by solar panels, wind farms and other local forms of generation. New ways to manage supply and demand are going mainstream, such as battery storage and paying big energy users to reduce consumption at peak times. Homes are becoming mini-power stations generating and storing electricity with solar panels, home batteries and electric vehicles.

“As the network operator responsible and accountable for maintaining a safe, stable and reliable network and delivering electricity to eight million people, we believe we are best placed to seize the opportunities of this energy transition for our customers and ensure we continue to deliver them the best services at the lowest possible cost,” Dr Erwin said.

“We don’t have all the answers and we want the flexibility to be able to seize new opportunities, so we are collaborating within the industry to share best practice and consulting widely with customers and experts to flesh out our plans to ensure we take the right decisions.”

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