UK Power Networks outlines smart energy vision

The UK's largest electricity distributor has today (17 July) unveiled its intention to become a Distribution System Operator (DSO) as part of its vision to help deliver a smart, flexible energy system.

UK Power Networks, which delivers electricity to 18 million people in London, the East and South East, is currently a Distribution Network Operator (DNO), which simply manages the network.  

A DSO securely operates and develops an active distribution system comprising networks, demand, generation and other flexible distributed energy resources. The move will help UK Power Networks’ customers with the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs), demand response contracts and smart grid technologies such as energy storage.

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

“We’re doing the work now to make this exciting future possible.  So today we’re launching our vision for the smart network, and we want everyone’s views.”

Distributed energy

The announcement comes alongside a strategy consultation paper which outlines how UK Power Networks is already helping to transform the energy grid. The operator claims it has connected 8.5GW of distributed generation to its networks, installed chargers for 25,000 EVs and received 16GW of connections for battery storage.

Earlier this month, UK Power Networks and the National Grid launched a new service to enable more electricity generation across the South East of England.

With “significant amounts” of renewable energy generation, a nuclear power station and interconnecting cables to Europe, the area has one of the most complex district networks to manage. With this in mind, the new framework allows electricity generators to connect to the grid without costly reinforcements on the transmission network in the region.

An £18.4m grid-scale battery system in Bedfordshire operated by UK Power Networks proved the technical and commercial viability of energy storage in Britain following an extensive two-year trial, the operator recently claimed. According to UK Power Networks, the system can potentially transform the energy grid and play a major role in the transition towards a low-carbon economy.

It is estimated that distributed energy could save customers more than £1.6bn a year. A shift from DNOs to DSOs was put forward as a recommendation in a recent report from Green Alliance as a way to ensure small-scale energy is well integrated. The think tank argued that the UK could suffer from an overloaded grid at peak times unless rapid action is taken to design a smarter power system.

George Ogleby

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