UKPN invests £15 million in ‘world’s most advanced’ network control system
Image: UKPN.

UK Power Networks (UKPN) is to create what professes to be the world’s most advanced electricity network control system, enabling more than 500MW of distributed energy to connect to its network cheaper and faster than before.

The distribution network operator (DNO) has teamed up with Smarter Grid Solutions to invested £15 million in new Active Network Management (ANM) software which is to be integrated into its new control system.

The ANM will be capable of processing significant quantities of data to run the South East of England’s power network, providing UKPN with a more comprehensive view of what’s happening on the network at any given moment.

The software will then make complex decisions to optimise the flow of available power autonomously, essentially creating more capacity for distributed energy resources such as wind and solar and reducing the need for infrastructure upgrades.

Sotiris Georgiopoulos, head of smart grid development at UKPN, said that the firm was creating a platform for the network of the future and “taking it further and faster than anyone in the world has done before”.

“This business-as-usual project demonstrates that innovation is truly embedded in our business. Having ANM integrated into our entire network control system is going to open the door to an almost limitless range of smart grid applications,” he said.

While other networks in the country operate some form of ANM, UKPN said it was the first to undertake a major investment in the technology and roll it out across its entire network at all voltage levels.

Georgiopoulos added that in practice, the software would function like apps on a smart phone.

“Once we have the core platform ready, we’ll be able to add a vast number of smart applications to it without having to build and maintain individual platforms for individual projects. The fact it acts as a platform, as opposed to a solution to a specific problem, means it will be able to take advantage of emerging technologies around big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence,” he said.

Smarter Grid Solutions is to lead the consortium tasked with the build and deployment of the system and Bob Currie, chief technology officer at the firm, described the project as a “watershed moment” for distribution networks.

“Our ANM Strata platform has been proven in commercial deployments at major international utilities across the world. ANM Strata provides UK Power Networks with the ability to manage all types and sizes of distributed energy, with a unique layered approach to optimisation, management and control of DER. Our consortium partners will augment our ANM Strata product with leading control centre analytics and a distributed energy marketplace,” Currie said.