The £9.5m project, overseen by Innovate UK, will look to increase the UK’s energy network capacity to tackle both residential and commercial needs.

It is being trialed on Western Power Distribution’s residential energy network; with the local network voltage being increased to allow for different energy requirements such as charging electric vehicles (EVs).

Design and delivery of the project is a collaborative effort between Western Power, Schneider Electric, Anvil Semiconductors, Turbo Power Systems, Aston University and Exception EMS.

One-way system

Schneider Electric’s smart grid director Barrie Cressey said: “There is some incredible work going on in the sustainability and energy space. It’s our mission to ensure consumers and businesses across Britain can benefit from the ground-breaking research and technical innovations that are happening in the energy industry.”

By 2020, the UK is expected to have 10 million homes with solar panels, while the number of EVs sold is set to rise to 6.4 million by 2023. As a result, the existing energy infrastructure – designed for a one-way flow of energy – will have to deal with unprecedented patterns in network load.

The challenge of integrating distributed power generation with traditional, larger-scale energy generation presents new risks in terms of voltage control and predicting load and demand. According to Leonie Greene, head of external affairs at the Solar Trade Association (STA), a lack of investment has led to an outdated electricity grid which is preventing many renewable energy projects connecting to the system.

New Energy Secretary 

Greene said: “The grid is now sclerotic in places and there are even modest solar roofs that cannot get grid connections. We are trying to get the DNOs to operate on a more active business model but the amount of solar that is projected for 2023 is less than we have today.

“We are missing basic information because we don’t have an assessment of how much actual capacity is left and what is needed to meet the 2020 targets. The new Secretary of State has no time to waste to get the grid on track if we want a low-carbon electricity system.”

Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, is funding projects that drive innovative ways in how energy is supplied and used to address this ‘energy trilemma’ of sustainability, security of supply and affordability.

The agency has also today (11 May) announced the fourth round of funding for the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), which is now offering up to £60m for business-led low-carbon vehicle projects that will deliver significant reductions in emissions. Around £90 million has already been allocated to more than 50 organisations in the first three rounds.

Luke Nicholls

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