UK energy regulator grants $76 million to six smart grid projects

Energy regulator Ofgem (London, England) on Sunday announced that six projects are to share $76 million of funding to help local power networks become smarter. The money comes from Ofgem’s $666 million Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCN Fund).

The projects will run in several areas across Britain, piloting new technology and commercial arrangements, says Ofgem.  Local grid companies will learn to develop smart grid networks, which will aim to reduce the need to invest in new network assets such as substations or overhead lines by making use of those which are already there, said the energy regulator.

“Britain’s energy grids need to undergo a revolution in how they are run so they can connect more renewable generators and a range of low carbon technologies such as ground source heat pumps,” says Rachel Fletcher, Ofgem’s senior partner for smarter grids, governance and distribution. “There is a significant opportunity for companies to contain the cost of this transition by making better use of existing capacity and exploring the scope to use demand side response.”

Several projects involve better use of existing network capacity to manage congestion on the grid, or looking at how more low carbon generation can be connected without having to build new power lines.

The six projects include:

  • Located in Cambridge, the first project involves UK Power Networks (London, England) allowing generators more flexibility and choice over network access by deploying “smart” communications equipment across 700 square kilometers of High Voltage (HV) networks to provide better connection for wind farms.  The grant will cover $8.9 million of the $11.7 million it will take to complete the project by 2014.
  • The second project involves Scottish Power Energy Networks (Glasgow, Scotland) using real time data to monitor equipment and manage the network more efficiently.  The project will take place in three separate locations: Wrexham, St. Andrews and Whitchurch, and will cost $8.5 million, $4.8 million of which will be paid for using Ofgem’s grants.
  • Electricity North West Limited (Warrington, England), an electricity distribution network operator, will use capacity that is currently set aside for when problems develop elsewhere on the network (i.e. from network failure or planned maintenance), to increase capability of the existing HV network. The operator will use $12.1 million granted by Ofgem to help pay for the $14.2 million project.
  • In the fourth project, Western Power Distribution (Bristol, England) will design a model for using smart grids for HV networks. Ofgem grants cover $16.5 million of the $19.8 million it will cost to finish the project by 2015.
  • The Western Power Distribution will also be working on the fifth project, which involves allowing photo voltaic (PV) solar to connect to low voltage networks by using an in home battery to manage energy use.  By using these batteries, customers can use the stored electricity at times of peak demand, reducing the load on the networks and lowering electric bills. The grant will cover $2.9 million of the $3.3 million the project will cost.
  • The last project involves electricity company Southern Electric Power Distribution (Reading, England) developing new ways for domestic and commercial customers to use electivity in the future, which will allow the industry to better forecast demand.  The project, which costs $39.8 million, will receive $30.4 million in grants.

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