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Flexible Urban Networks – Low Voltage

Flexible Urban Networks – Low Voltage (FUN-LV) demonstrated the potential of power electronics devices to help defer network reinforcement.

Project-on-a-Page summary

Project data

Start date: 02/01/2013
End date: 01/12/2016
Budget: £8m

Efforts to decarbonise energy generation, heat and transport will place increasing demands on distribution networks, particularly so for the low voltage (LV) networks closest to our customers. Analysis carried out by Imperial College to support UK Power Networks’ RIIO-ED1 business plan predicted an increasing trend of voltage issues and demand rises that could overload transformers and underground cables, requiring £132.6m of network reinforcement during the RIIO-ED1 period if reinforced by conventional means.

The three core objectives of the project were to:

  • Demonstrate the optimisation of capacity on the LV network closest to customers. This would aim to accommodate the
    forecasted growth in electric vehicle charging, heat pumps and microgeneration on existing connections by making the network more flexible and resilient
  • Enable improvement in the connection offer process (both in terms of time & cost) in urban areas
  • Advance the sector debate on future network architecture

Meshed networks have been identified as a means of increasing capacity on the network without resorting to traditional reinforcement. In meshed networks, customers are supplied by two or more independent routes through the LV network, with the result that their demand can be shared across substations reducing heavily loaded assets, voltage fluctuations tend to be suppressed, losses are reduced, and customers benefit from in-built resilience to high voltage (HV) network faults.

This project trialled power electronics devices for the first time on low voltage distribution networks to assess the potential to release existing, latent spare capacity in shorter timescales as an alternative to conventional reinforcement.

The overarching aim of the Flexible Urban Networks – Low Voltage (FUN-LV) project was to explore the use of power electronics to enable the deferment of reinforcement and facilitate the connection of low carbon technologies and distributed generation in urban areas. This was achieved by meshing existing networks, which are not meshed, and by breaking down boundaries within existing meshed networks.

Flexible Urban Network achieved its overarching aim, which was to explore the use of power electronics to enable the deferment of reinforcement and facilitate the connection of low carbon technologies and distributed generation in urban areas. In these cases, the project proved that strategic, targeted use of power electronics could be used to facilitate a more flexible network that enables further decarbonisation efforts and delivers benefits for UK Power Networks customers.

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