The UK energy regulator Ofgem has recently published the first Smart Grid Evaluation Framework to provide energy companies with a methodology for assessing the value of new smart grid solutions.

The framework has been produced for The Smart Grids Forum, established by Ofgem and DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) in April 2011, to provide leadership to the power industry on the implementation of smart grids.

Dave Roberts of framework co-authors EA Technology said, “This is the first work of its kind in the UK and an important step towards understanding the circumstances in which it is in the interests of consumers for the industry to invest in smart grids, rather than conventional network solutions.”

The framework has been developed by power network consultants EA Technology in partnership with Frontier Economics. It provides a methodology for assessing the likely value of smart grids under different scenarios and over different time frames. It also highlights the key factors which drive the benefit case for smart grids and provides initial results produced by the model.

The Smart Grids Forum, which has also published its first year report, was established because there is a broad consensus that the transition to a low carbon energy system will have significant impacts on UK electricity distribution networks. In particular, the electrification of heat and transport, and the task of integrating intermittent generation, will bring new challenges for Distribution Network Operators (DNOs).

It is expected that by introducing more intelligent monitoring and control into distribution networks and engaging the demand side, the cost of meeting these challenges will be reduced, compared with more conventional solutions.

Initial findings suggest that, smart grid solutions could provide a significant net benefit to the UK, even in scenarios with a lower take-up of low carbon technologies. The majority of these benefits will be in terms of reduced requirements for distribution network investment.