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UKPN and National Grid team up to boost connection capacity

Active network management will enable simplified connection process and reduce reinforcement costs

UK Power Networks (UKPN) and National Grid have launched a new active network management scheme to boost grid capacity in the South East of England and simplify the connections process for generators.

The ground-breaking development marks a “significant step” towards UKPN’s transformation into a distribution system operator, the firm said in a statement.

“The role of the distribution networks is changing, and we need to work closely with the national transmission network operator to deliver cost-effective solutions,” said UKPN head of smart grid development Sotiris Georgiopoulos.

“This is the first time in the UK that we see the distribution systems operator role in action, supporting the wider system.”

Managing electricity flows in South East is a “complex challenge”, according to the firm, due to large volumes of renewable generation and the multiple interconnectors which the region hosts. Transmission network constraints mean generators in some areas of Kent and Sussex face substantial costs to connect to the power grid.

By optimising the use of the existing infrastructure, active network management will allow generators to be linked up without the need for expensive reinforcements. To enable the more granular operation of the grid, detailed models have been built up of the local distribution network and distributed energy resources.

The current connection process for generators involves multiple steps and can be lengthy and complicated. Those which sign up to the new scheme will face a simpler, single stage process. Over time, new commercial arrangements will be developed to incentivise them to offer flexibility services to help balance the grid.   

The system will go live on Monday (26 June) and will initially be open to new generation customers connecting in the region. Existing customers are expected to be invited to join in the future.

National Grid and UKPN have developed the scheme as part of the Energy Network Association’s open networks project - an industry initiative seeking to establish the future roles and responsibilities of network operators. The knowledge gained from its implementation will be shared with other networks.

Nick Easton, programme manager for the whole system project at National Grid, said: “We are committed to working with network operators to facilitate the transition to a smart, flexible electricity system. In doing so we will be able to optimise planning, investment and operational processes across the whole electricity system.

“As well as benefiting customers, this work is going to provide more capacity for renewable energy in a constrained area. For the first time we will see the positive impact of what can be achieved when network operators work with the system operator to make things better for our customers, and this will set the scene for what we can achieve in future.”

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