New project could create ‘UK’s first actively optimised network’

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‘FIRST of their type in the UK’ voltage control devices will be installed at substations across the network in a scheme by Electricity North West.

Called Smart Street, it will target areas with high uptake of electric vehicles, solar panels and other low carbon technologies, particularly where these overlap with customers living in fuel poverty.

Using new controllable switching devices, called the Weezap and Lynx, integrated into the company’s network management system, Smart Street stabilises voltage and avoids it falling outside of statutory limits.

The company can then reduce the supply voltage to an optimum level, a technique known as conservation voltage reduction.

“Smart Street involves our engineers installing unique technology on the electricity network that will reduce customer bills and help facilitate the transition to a low carbon economy”,

Steve Cox, Engineering and Technical Director at Electricity North West, said.

“Electric vehicles, heat pumps and other low carbon technologies are the future but they also place a greater demand on our electricity network. Meanwhile, things like solar panel technology are having the opposite effect, with generated energy being sent back onto the network.”

While electric vehicles and heat pumps could cause voltage to fall below statutory limits, new generation from photovoltaics exporting electricity to the network is stated to have the opposite effect.

Smart Street is part of a wider commitment from Electricity North West as part of its ‘Leading the North West to Zero Carbon’ plan where £63.5m has been earmarked over the next four years to support decarbonisation targets.

The project has been supported with an £18m allowance from Ofgem.

The rollout follows a successful four-year trial, where improvements in energy efficiency resulted in customer electricity consumption being reduced by between 5 and 8 per cent, alongside a reduction in carbon of between 7 and 10 per cent.

Smart Street aims to make it possible for the network operator to optimise the level of electricity delivered to households or businesses on various parts of the network, in line with real-time demand.

The company states that the technology in Smart Street could be used by other UK distribution network operators, offering similar savings to their customers and further supporting the UK’s decarbonisation targets.

“We operate one of the most reliable networks in the UK and it’s our job to keep the power flowing for our customers so that electricity is available wherever and whenever it’s needed. But we felt that we could do more to improve efficiency on the network, which is why we created Smart Street”, Mr Cox continued.

“We knew that if we could supply electricity at a more optimised level for our customers, we could save our customers money on their electricity bills and support important regional and national decarbonisation targets.

“Through a range of comprehensive trials, we’ve seen the positive impact that this technology has, so now, with Ofgem’s backing, we’re excited to be applying it to the power network at scale.”

Work for Smart Street is set to start in April 2020, with the first voltage control devices scheduled for installation in November 2020.

Electricity North West is working closely with Citizen’s Advice to identify locations where customers are living in fuel poverty across its distribution network.

A total of 180 areas in the North West will benefit from the new technology over a three-year period and the installations will take place at substations, which transform electricity from high to low voltage.

The rollout will cause no disruption to customers and all of the devices will be integrated into Electricity North West’s network management system, creating the ‘UK’s first actively optimised network’.

“In addition to lower bills and a carbon reduction, Smart Street will increase the amount of available network capacity, which will pave the way for more low carbon technologies to be connected to the electricity network in the future”, Helen Boyle, Strategic Decarbonisation Manager at Electricity North West, stated.

“Both Greater Manchester and the wider UK have very ambitious carbon reduction targets, so we’re absolutely committed to playing our part in helping to achieve them.

“Demand for electricity is set to double over the next 20 years so we’re taking positive steps now to help the transition away from fossil fuels and make the low carbon economy a reality.

“We’re incredibly excited about the potential of Smart Street and firmly believe it’s something that could be extended to networks nationwide, helping to deliver even greater benefits for the environment and energy customers everywhere.”

For more information on Smart Street, visit www.enwl.co.uk/smartstreet