Control Room 2035 is a research project in partnership with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks to understand, design and plan how our world-leading network control room could look in the future.
Our world-leading network control centre manages all of our network infrastructure 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ensuring our customers have a safe, reliable and efficient electricity supply. In the last few ten years or so, our role has started to change fundamentally. We are converting from our traditional role of being a Distribution Network Operator to becoming a Distribution System Operator, balancing an increasingly complex, interconnected and low-carbon electricity network while maintaining focus on our core responsibility of keeping the lights on. Changing consumer behaviours and emerging new technologies – such as renewable energy, large scale battery storage and electric vehicles – along with the advent of new energy markets backed by modern software have driven this change.
As we move closer to our Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050 target, the pace of change is likely to increase significantly. To stay ahead of the curve, we are working with our fellow network operator Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) to investigate, research and plan what new capabilities, skills, systems and hardware will be required to run our control rooms in the year 2035 – halfway between now and the government’s Net Zero carbon emissions target.
The research project, led by SSEN and our other project partners the Power Networks Demonstration Centre in Scotland, is aiming to explore new control room designs for the future. To do so, the team will create specification for a control room running on a computer to simulate different potential futures that will cope with the future network scenarios that this project will also identify. The project will also create this replica of the GB energy system to simulate the identified future scenarios called a ‘digital twin’. The combination of the future digital twin and the future control room simulator, that this project will produce technical specification for, will be for the same reason airplane pilots use cockpit simulators for training. Our engineers can test a wide range of potential future scenarios and simulate various extreme network conditions to understand what tools might be required in 2035. These new tools include things like: automating certain tasks with AI, integrating data sources from new types of software, creating new digital interfaces for our staff, installing new equipment to better understand what’s happening on the network or creating new physical spaces for employees to help them perform their roles.
By its very nature, looking ahead and planning a futuristic control room for 2035 is innovative because it relies on new technologies that are not yet part of everyday use. We’ll use the latest techniques and consider the most modern solutions as we build the digital twin. We’ll end up with a roadmap for our future control room facility with associated short, medium and long term targets for implementing the changes.
All this will be underpinned by engagement with our own control room employees and those from the wider industry, alongside the expert control system software and hardware providers we work with. Capturing everyone’s views and ideas will help us make sure we’re planning a control room that works for those who work there.
The project will help us identify: