Active Response

Start Date: January 2018
End Date: November 2021
Total Project Cost: £18.3M
Network licensee contribution: £3.0M

Active Response will trial a revolutionary way of managing spare electricity network capacity that could save customers £271 million by 2030 and cut more than 448,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030. The project will trial a responsive, automated electricity network that reconfigures itself in real-time, moving spare capacity to where the demand is. It does this by using power electronics to transfer electricity demand from heavily loaded substations to nearby substations with spare capacity.


By 2030 it is anticipated there will be up to 1.9m electric vehicles in use across London, the East and South East of England where UK Power Networks delivers electricity – including London’s buses and taxis. The charging of these vehicles could significantly increase peak demand for electricity. In order to accommodate this increased demand, UK Power Networks would traditionally reinforce the existing network assets to provide more capacity. Upgrading an electricity substation, or adding entirely new substations and cabling when customers need more power, takes time, costs money, and can cause roadworks. Ultimately, this cost would be borne by the electricity customers.


Active Response will use highly innovative solutions to optimise the use of the existing network and reduce need for reinforcement, thus potentially saving customers £271 million by 2030.


The project aims to demonstrate new ways network operators can maximise the capacity of their existing assets. By using advanced automation and installing new power electronic devices we can connect networks together and move spare capacity around to where it is needed, reducing the need for time-consuming and sometimes costly reinforcement.


In practice, these solutions allow more capacity to be provided to residential areas in evenings and at weekends when people could be charging their electric cars, and then transferring that spare capacity to where it is needed during the day – such as city centres, commercial hubs or at electric fleet charge points.


To address the challenges above, the project will test and trial new designs of power electronic devices and network optimisation and automation software. It will be the first time these new devices, known as Soft Open Points and Soft Power Bridges, and software have been used on a distribution network.


The project will trial the solutions described above through a series of project trials, which will demonstrate the benefits of the solutions. The trials are expected to start in Q3 2019 and conclude in Q3 2021. Prior to the trials starting, the project will conduct rigorous testing of the devices and software to ensure the solutions operate as expected.


Active Response builds on previous research projects such as Flexible Urban Networks – Low Voltage, which delivered pioneering results by proving that an entirely new use for power electronics could be deployed on the electricity network.


During our trials we are proposing to demonstrate two methods:

  1. Network Optimise – Optimisation and Automatic reconfiguration of HV & LV networks in combination, using remote control switches and Soft Open Points.
  2. Primary Connect – Controlled transfers between primary substations using a Soft Power Bridge to share loads and optimise capacity.


UK Power Networks recognises the importance of sharing learnings from trialling innovative solutions. As such, the project will share key learnings with stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle.


If the technology trialed in the project proves successful, Active Response could save customers nationwide £271m by 2030, equivalent to £9.34 per customer. It could cut more than 448,000 tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030, which is the same as almost half a million return flights between London and New York. The primary driver for these benefits is a reduction in levels in reinforcement required to accommodate increased demands on the distribution network. The solutions allow network operators to maximise the capacity of existing assets whilst still accommodating increasing load growth.


The project is set to play an important role in enabling the growth of low carbon transport at the lowest possible cost to customers.


Active Response Project Deliverable 1 report

High-Level Design Specification of Advanced Automation Solution

Active Response Project Progress Report July 2018

Project update January – July 2018

Active Response NIC submission

Overview of Active Response submitted to regulator Ofgem as part of the Network Innovation Competition bid process