The Northern Powergrid has launched a £1.9 million research project to improve the integration of distributed technologies to the grid. The distribution network operator will use the three-year project to identify the best use of technologies and how to support them. The increasing number of on-site renewable installations is creating a challenge to the distribution networks, which traditionally carry electricity from the high voltage transmission grid to industrial, commercial, and domestic users. Distributed generation within these networks can make it difficult to maintain power flow and power quality because it is more difficult to balance generation and demand. It is thought that, in the future, smart networks could link buildings, electric vehicles, storage units, and end users. Tariffs can be designed to encourage charging of vehicles out of peak periods, and some electric cars will be able to feed power back into the grid. Homes will increasingly be able to produce and store power, with the use of renewable generation, battery storage, and electric vehicles. Government statistics show the extent of distributed generation from solar PV in the UK. At the end of Q2 2017, solar PV represented one third of all renewable capacity. Recent data shows that small-scale solar PV (with a capacity of 0 to 4 kW) makes up 94% of total PV installations and accounts for 20% of PV capacity. The uptake of PV saw a sharp increase at the start of the FIT tariff scheme, but the rate of increase slowed after August 2012 following tariff reductions.
The Northern Powergrid is looking to provide a stable and reliable flow of electricity by implementing smart solutions. The customer-led distribution project will look at how to maximise the benefits of a future smart energy systems, while at the same time enabling customers to generate an income by selling energy or services to balance the network. Models and practical demonstrations of local energy markets will be developed by researchers at Bath University and at Newcastle University. Dr Erwin, Policy and Markets Director at Northern Powergrid, said: “we are collaborating within the industry to share best practice and consulting widely with customers and experts to flesh out our plans to ensure we take the right decisions.”