UK Power Networks has reached a major milestone in a research project that aims to integrate more renewable energy onto the electricity distribution network.

This will be the first time that UK Power Networks and National Grid share network information in real-time and is part of a wider project called the Kent Active System Management (KASM). The project aims to improve service to existing generation customers by making better use of capacity on the network, as well as helping to keep costs low and ensure quicker, more secure new generation connections.

The trial is funded by £3.3 million from the Low Carbon Networks Fund, administered by Ofgem, with UK Power Networks contributing an additional £450,000.

There has been a significant increase in renewables connecting to UK Power Networks distribution network, making the flow of energy around the grid increasingly complex and challenging to plan and manage. KASM looks at using sophisticated modelling software and forecasting tools to plan and operate the network more accurately and understand the impact that additional generation could have. The company believes this will mean it can use the software to model even more realistic scenarios for network planners.

The co-ordinated approach being developed on the project includes linking National Grid’s transmission system control centre with UK Power Networks’ distribution network control centre. As distribution networks connect and manage more energy generation, it is increasingly important for them to be able to exchange information with National Grid. Sharing this real-time data means that both organisations can build an accurate long-term picture of exactly what is happening on the network and plan future capacity accordingly.

The data being shared between National Grid and the energy network, along with the new software tools now being developed, is expected to give control operators the confidence to allow more energy onto the system by analysing complex scenarios in seconds and predicting the possible impacts of control decisions as they are made.

The KASM trials will benefit areas such as Kent, where electricity generation far outstrips demand because of the high number of solar farms and off-shore wind farms. This has meant up until now during certain times energy from some renewable sources cannot be supplied to the network.  

Suleman Alli, Director of Strategy at UK Power Networks, said the project showed how the company was using latest technology to improve service to customers.

He said: “By setting up a system that exchanges real-time information with National Grid we can better understand the complexity of the system so that we can plan and more accurately manage the network, which could make it more easily accessible for new connections.

“UK Power Networks has a vital role in facilitating a low carbon economy, in which renewable generation on the distribution network contributes significantly towards the GB generation mix.”

Duncan Burt, Head of Operate the System, Electricity at National Grid said: “The energy industry is going through a period of huge change. The increase in renewable energy connected to local networks and emerging technologies like electricity storage means National Grid will need more data on what’s happening at a very local level to help balance supply and demand. This innovative project with UK Power Networks is an important step forward in meeting these challenges while saving money for customers.”

UK Power Networks has a track record of converting its innovation projects into real savings for customers. In the last year, the company has saved renewable energy generation customers over £60m by pioneering quicker, cheaper, flexible connections.