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Helping the UK have a smarter energy network

The challenge

Decarbonisation of UK energy supply means that electricity distribution networks are coping with increased renewable generation and higher demands. To deal with the growth in electric vehicles, solar panels and other low-carbon technologies, distribution networks need to become 'smarter' and more flexible. However, these networks currently have very limited metering, making it difficult to know how the power is flowing on a minute-by-minute basis. Adding additional measurements at scale to every network node would, however, be very expensive and disruptive.

The solution

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde, in partnership with NPL, are investigating how domestic smart meters and other associated datasets (technical, social and commercial) can provide useful information to support the management of distribution networks. Our aim is to develop practical tools for distribution network operators (DNOs) to classify and characterise networks using minimal measurement sets, to enable improved performance, support decision making and improve operational practice.

The impact

This work will ensure that as we move away from fossil fuelled energy supply, DNOs will be able to target investment more effectively for network improvements. This means that our current electricity usage and quality standards can be maintained, whilst the effects on our climate are minimised. The tools produced will assist DNOs as they develop smart, flexible networks fit for a low-carbon world.

Earlier in my career I worked [at ScottishPower] on the transition of electricity generation from fossil fuel to renewables. NPL funding has allowed me to return to the workplace after a career break to help develop the next stage of our energy revolution – the move to smart, flexible grids and localised energy solutions.

Allison Strachan - PhD student, University of Strathclyde