Smart Networks Overview

Making our energy cycle smarter isn’t a new thing for ENA or our members, we’ve been working on it for a long time, and it’s the reason we’re considered the ‘hub’ for the co-ordination of innovation for a Smart Grid.

Since the National Grid was first built in the 1930s, the transmission system has operated in a smart way. So rather than making the networks ‘smart’, as we adapt for the future we will be making them ‘smarter’ by extending this functionality to the distribution level too.

Q: What is the definition of a ‘smarter network’?

A: A smarter network will make use of real-time information on network performance and energy consumption, to respond to and manage demand to maintain a more efficient, affordable and low-carbon flow of energy. By doing so, a smarter network will also enable new technologies such as electric vehicles, renewable generation, heat pumps, amongst others technologies.

  • Reduce energy network outages and disruptions

  • Increase resiliency and security of energy networks and grid

  • Improve operational efficiency of the UK’s networks

  • Help increase environmental sustainability

  • Help lower cost of energy storage, transmission, and distribution

As well as describing ENA as ‘the hub’, Energy Minister Charles Hendry also said, “the real prize of smart meters is smarter networks”. This clear view of the importance of the role the networks have to play in energy security, affordability and sustainability is precisely why ENA and our members are so engaged in innovation and new technology.

But for a smart network to be realised issues of data security, privacy and customer engagement must all be addressed.

Q: What is the definition of a Smart Grid?

A: The Smart Grid is everything from generation through to home automation with a smart meter being an important element, with every piece of networks equipment, communications technology and processes in between contributing to an efficient and smart grid.

A completely Smart Grid of the future will enable appliances in the home to communicate with the smart meter and enable the networks to ensure efficient use of infrastructure, demand response and energy management. These are all critical to making the most of intermittent renewables and keeping the lights on in an affordable low carbon energy future.

Work conducted for ENA by Imperial College indicates that embracing a smarter network future could save the consumer £16 billion.

Q: What is the definition of a ‘smart meter’?

A: A smart meter is at the heart of a smart grid providing information for customers on their consumption, data to the networks to manage the flow of energy and information to suppliers to improve the accuracy of bills.

The smart meter roll out is being handled by suppliers but the potential benefits they deliver go much further than improving the supplier-customer relationship. The data and functionality that comes from a smart meter is vital to deliver the efficiencies that will reduce the need for expensive network infrastructure and to maximise the potential of renewables. However, if all smart meters in use cannot provide this, the risk is that savings to customers’ bills won’t be realised either.

For further details, please contact Jamie McWilliam.