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Revolutionary smart substation trial to spearhead Net Zero

30 December 2020


The UK’s energy networks are some of the most innovative in the world. In this feature on innovation, Sotiris Georgiopoulos, Head of Smart Grid Development at UK Power Networks, writes about their winning Network Innovation Competition project – Constellation.

Smart electricity substations that speak to each other using the 5G network could hold one of the keys to enabling the Net Zero revolution.

UK Power Networks has been given the green light by regulator Ofgem after a successful bid to its Network Innovation Competition fund to trial a world-first innovation project, Constellation. The project will see powerful computers installed in a series of substations, optimising utilisation of the substations to free up capacity and help facilitate the rise in renewable energy generation.

The volume of distributed generation, energy which is no longer connected to the national transmission system but to regional distribution networks, is forecast to grow from 26GW today to 65GW in 2050. Much of this generation is renewable in the form of wind and solar farms.

UK Power Networks is adapting to increasingly complex power flows by becoming smarter so that it can safely release more capacity and enable more renewable energy to connect at lower cost – saving customers money and helping the environment at the same time.

Constellation marks a transformation in the way electricity networks operate. It will enable local substations to analyse millions of datapoints on how the network is running, meaning the network can reconfigure itself to safely enable higher volumes of electricity to flow. It will also provide a foundation for many other smart solutions, further benefiting customers.

This solution pioneered by UK Power Networks hopes to release 1.4GW of capacity (enough to power more than 700,000 homes) and save consumers more than £750 million by 2050 if the project proves a success and is rolled out nationwide. It is also forecast to save more than 19 tonnes of harmful CO2 emissions by 2050.

UK Power Networks is creating a platform that will enable this smart solution to be deployed throughout the country and enable more renewable energy to connect quickly and efficiently. They already have smart control rooms and grid edge devices such as smart electric vehicle chargers, and having smart substations in the middle pulling it all together is a logical next step.

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About Energy Networks Association

Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.

ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.

Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.

What are energy network operators?

Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 40,000 people in Great Britain.

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