Our challenge was to find a way to make complex service offerings as simple and transparent as possible, allowing everyone, from domestic customers through to prosumers and big business, the opportunity to participate. To do this we worked with our stakeholders to help develop a simple, but effective campaign – ‘a smart grid for all’. This initiative used a multichannel approach to reach more than 31,000 potential customers, broken down by:
This initiatives shows the breadth of engagement we have undertaken in what is a fundamental change for the industry, allowing stakeholders a crucial voice during the transition.
Furthermore, during 2018, we presented a draft KPIs to our CEO Panel, before updating and further co-creating with stakeholders on our Critical Friends Panels a suite of 15 KPIs covering value to customers, environmental benefits, customer satisfaction and technical performance. These are reported to members of our executive team on a regular basis and will be published annually, providing accountability and transparency of progress to our stakeholders.
Facilitate cheaper and quicker connections using proven innovation
Continue rollout of Flexible DG that uses Active Network Management
Use customer flexibility as an alternative to network upgrades
Run market tenders for flexibility services such as Demand Side Response
Develop enhanced System Operator capabilities
Develop TSO – DSO Commercial Framework, DER Dispatch capability and readiness for smart meters
Collaborate with industry and others to enable GB wide benefits
Actively participate in industry forums to make this transition a reality
Prepare and facilitate the uptake of electric vehicles
Enable connections using smart solutions and ensure business readiness
In 2017, UK Power Networks was among the first electricity networks in the UK to launch a strategy setting out our transition from Distribution Network Operator (DNO) to Distribution System Operator (DSO). The five pillars of our DSO Strategy provide an overview of our approach, and you can download the full report at the link below.
The changing electricity system provides opportunities for network operators to manage and develop the energy system in new ways. The transition to a DSO involves using flexible demand and generation to support the planning and operation of the smart grid. Through use of open and transparent local markets, we are committed to testing flexibility markets in the first instance before reinforcing the network to deliver reliable supplies at efficient cost for our customers.
In 2018, we became the first network operator in the UK to commit to a ‘Flexibility First’ approach. This means we will seek to procure flexible energy services as the default option, in preference to reinforcing or upgrading our assets. We will take this approach as long as it is the most cost-efficient option for our customers. Our Flexibility Roadmap is available to download at the link below.Download our Flexibility Roadmap document
In order to manage our increasingly complex networks to make them as efficient as possible, we are developing a range of sophisticated ways to capture and analyse the data they produce. These enable us to coordinate with other elements of the electricity infrastructure and to optimise the available resources to provide a cost-effective, environmentally friendly power supply to our customers. The more streamlined and responsive our network is, the more efficiently it runs, which results in cost savings for our customers.
The Power Potential project aims to create a new reactive power market for distributed energy resources (DERs) and generate additional capacity on the network. This project is a world first and could save energy consumers over £400m by 2050. It could also generate up to an additional 4 GW in the South East region of the UK.
Renewable generation, such as wind and solar, is a growing source of power on the UK’s power distribution networks. As this trend continues, more coordination between the national System Operator, National Grid and DNOs is needed. This will increase system flexibility by using more DER resources and provide network support at a distribution and transmission level.
The three-year study is based in the South East region of the UK, where the connection of distributed energy resources is growing rapidly. Given the region’s location, there is also high interconnection with continental Europe with HVDC links of 2GW, increasing to 5GW with future projects.
In May 2019, UK Power Networks unveiled plans to create the world’s most advanced electricity network control system.
We are investing £15 million in Active Network Management. This includes a new, intelligent software platform from Smarter Grid Solutions that will be integrated into the heart of its world class control system.
The new, advanced, automated control system will enable over 500MW of Distributed Energy Resources (DER), which is enough to power more than a quarter of a million homes. The power it will connect to the network will be mostly renewable energy like wind and solar, and it will do so more cheaply and more quickly than ever.
The Active Network Management system processes vast amounts of data to be able to run the South East of England’s increasingly dynamic network – that is now host to over 165,000 electricity producers – both safely and more efficiently. By having the most complete view possible of everything that is happening on the network at any given moment, the system will autonomously make complex decisions to optimise the flow of available power. As a result. we are seeing benefits such as reducing the need for building or upgrading existing infrastructure, speeding up new connections, enabling new markets and flexibility services. These all contribute to reducing costs.
We believe ANM will give us the most advanced network control centre system in the world. Although many electricity networks operate some form of ANM, UK Power Networks is the first to undertake such a major investment where the technology is rolled out across the entire network at all voltage levels. ANM will also enable the company’s innovation project Active Response to demonstrate how spare power can be moved around the network to where it is needed. In addition, it will help deliver the benefits of the Optimise Prime project which is creating the world’s largest commercial electric vehicle fleet demonstrator.
We are developing a toolbox of smart solutions to enable the uptake of low carbon technologies at the lowest possible cost to our customers. This includes the UK Power Networks’ Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS), which is responsible for the control and monitoring of all aspects of the distribution networks down to and including secondary substation. It also includes any other points on the LV networks where automated equipment is installed. We also operate separate control/ Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) communications networks. The principal function of control/ SCADA network is to support communication between the central OT systems including the ADMS, and the remote devices which monitor and control the distribution networks.
The Active Response project will deliver two physical smart asset solutions – also known as Power Electronic Devices (PEDs) – which can provide a range of benefits including the deferral of costly network reinforcement. These solutions are the second-generation Low Voltage (LV) Soft Open Point (SOP) and a novel High Voltage (HV) Soft Power Bridge (SPB). The project will also deliver an advanced optimisation and automation platform, a software solution which can deliver benefits over a wide area if the enabling technologies are in place. This advanced optimisation and automation solution will be part of a larger Active Network Management (ANM) platform. The SOP and SPB can control power flows, fault levels and voltages on the LV and HV networks respectively. In order to maximise network capacity, the ANM platform will optimise the network configuration through changing open points on the network and also optimise the behaviour of the SOPs and SPBs.
If proven successful, Active Response could save customers across GB £271m in reinforcement costs – approximately £9.34 from every customer’s bill – by 2030. As well as reducing reinforcement costs, the project will help reduce overloading on circuits; this in turn will reduce Customer Interruptions (CI) and Customer Minutes Lost (CML), the key parameters for measuring the frequency and duration of power cuts experienced by customers.
A number of Grid Supply Points (GSPs) have come under pressure in recent years due to the increasing levels of distributed generation connecting to the distribution network. The introduction of wind, solar, and the presence of interconnectors increases the number of extremes that need to be analysed – there is no longer a simple ‘day of highest winter demand’ and ‘day of lowest summer demand’. There is, therefore, a greater requirement to monitor all contingencies, and the number of GSPs being affected is growing. This means some areas of the network are becoming close to capacity. This results in limited capacity being available for future firm connections, unless reinforcement is undertaken.
UK Power Networks trialled the use of contingency analysis and forecasting tools on the GB electricity distribution network. Contingency analysis is an advanced form of power flow modelling that can evaluate in near real-time the potential for adverse conditions to impact the distribution network. The KASM project was the first trial of contingency analysis on a coordinated and interfaced basis with the electricity transmission network.
The project has established the necessary business processes and functional requirements to allow the exchange of real-time data between the UK Power Networks and national transmission system control rooms. In addition, UK Power Networks has procured an interactive software solution that will analyse and forecast power flows on the 400 kV, 132 kV and 33kV networks in East Kent and prepare contingency analysis studies within operational timeframes.
Following the transition of the solution to business as usual, UK Power Networks’ outage planners are using the forecasting solutions and as a result has already delivered 3000MWh of reduced generation curtailment to date.
New technology is contributing significantly to our ability to influence and control our networks. We are now able to collect and analyse vast volumes of data that help us provide a continuously improving service to our customers. The sources of this data include micro-detail about electricity flows on the system as well as panoramic images of our overground infrastructure. Artificial intelligence (AI) is helping us identify and deploy improvements across our networks.
We are using data to open up our network to our customers, giving them more transparency so they can make better decisions about where to invest. A leading example of this was developed through our work with the Mayor of London’s Electric Vehicle Taskforce. We are one of 16 industry leaders developing a delivery plan for electric vehicle infrastructure for 2025. The official plan was launched by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in June 2019.
As part of the electric vehicle (EV) taskforce, we produced this constraint map showing where the cheapest and quickest locations are likely to be to connect public chargers on the low voltage networks. You can view the map here: https://innovation.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/2019/06/10/ev-network-impact/
We are at the dawn of an era where we expect to experience significant uptake of electric vehicles. Four years ago, there were just 6,000 electric vehicles on our networks, now there are more than 70,000, and, by 2030, we forecast there will be up to 4.1m. To enable this growth, we are investing £41m over the next four years to increase network visibility across 5,843 low voltage substations by 2023. The data they produce will give us early sight of potential challenges on the network and enable us to take action, either through deploying one of our toolbox of smart solutions or undertaking reinforcement. We have built an in-house site selection model using data analytics so that we can strategically target our low voltage monitoring at the right substations that we forecast will be affected by EV load.
This is a great example of data analytics being embedded and driving asset manage decisions at scale to support of our customers greener transport.
We also developed a distributed generation tool to show the approximate locations of our 33kV and 132kV overhead electricity network poles and towers. It also shows where our 11kV, 33kV and 132kV substations are approximately in the East of England and the South East. Access to the mapping tool is available to registered distributed energy resources here: https://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/internet/en/our-services/list-of-services/electricity-generation/find-out-where-our-overhead-network-is/
View our work on reaching the UK’s Low Carbon-Ready targets here: https://innovation.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/
Synaps is an innovation project that will, for the first time, use leading-edge AI technology and ‘big data’ to improve network reliability. If the trial is successful and rolled out across the network, it could help halve the number of power cuts.
The project will enable engineers to use a library of ‘big data’ drawn from the network, in conjunction with artificial intelligence, to predict and locate potential faults on network equipment before they occur.
The technology works by analysing the waveforms of the electricity voltage an incredible 100,000 times per second, identifying when anything slightly unusual is happening in the cables. UK Power Networks is working with Powerline Technologies, who have developed a solution that will build up a library of all the measurements the technology makes.
Artificial intelligence then compares each new measurement to the vast library of data and spots any trends, patterns or irregularities. Over time, the machine will build up its knowledge and ‘learn’ to recognise conditions that can cause a fault on the electricity network.
The project is funded under Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance and we are working in partnership with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), Powerline Technologies, Energy Innovation Centre and Power Networks Demonstration Centre. The project will take 14 months and is funded to the tune of £680k
‘Overhead Line Assessment Using Panoramic Images’ is a project in which we tested the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of using panoramic images, compared to repeated line patrols on foot. The project was funded by £165,500 from Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance. We worked with OniGroup to count how many of our 700,000+ wooden electricity support poles in the South East and East of England are sufficiently covered by Google Street View to allow their condition to be assessed from a desktop.
Where images were not available from the roadside, inspectors will strap on a backpack with a telescopic lens that captures 360-degree video or still imagery. We found that 52% of all UK Power Networks’ poles were available in Google Street view, which exceeded our initial expectation of 40%. Of these images, slightly more than half were taken in the previous six years. Only a very small fraction had been taken in the previous year. We successfully worked with a third-party service provider, Captura Surveying and Inspections, to capture panoramic images of poles in areas without Google Streetview coverage. We created an update to the internal GIS platform to include the appropriate Google Street View Images. This enables users to search for a pole using its unique ID and view the available image for the pole. In the future, ‘image recognition’ could be applied to images to undertake inspection checks.
To find out more about this project, visit its dedicated page: https://innovation.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/projects/overhead-line-assessment-using-panoramic-images-aka-google-streetview/
CNAIM modelling data flow has made UK Power Networks an industry leader in asset risk modelling with Asset Risk & Prioritisation (ARP) models and its modelling framework. We have been chairing the working group to develop CNAIM with all UK distribution network operators. Sustainable solution has been now developed and deployed for our ARP risk modelling.
Cable Canary is a new device that UK Power Networks developed to use data to improve the reliability of our network. It works by continuously monitoring partial discharge data of Vertical Transition Straight Joints and identifying the early indication of joint failure. It will raise the alarm at a specified threshold to replace the joint in a controlled manner before it fails.
To find out more about this project visit its dedicated page: https://innovation.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/projects/vertical-transition-straight-joints-cable-canary/
High voltage Underground Cable Research is using data to prioritise the replacement of assets that are nearing the end of their useful life. The Cable Prioritisation Tool that we developed provides health indices for underground cables. It enables us to identify high priority cables that require early intervention so that we can optimise our investment strategy and maintain supply security at the lowest possible cost to customers.
We have undertaken work on how to reduce household losses by installing smart meters, which allow consumers to monitor electricity usage more effectively and make smart choices. The Smart Metering rollout in Great Britain is being led by energy suppliers, but to support the rollout, in some instances, a distribution network operator is required to visit a property to enable a smart metering installation to proceed. Smart Meter installation volumes during the 2018/19 regulation year have increased from the previous year’s installation rate of 21% to a meter population currently at 30.07% of UK Power Networks’ customer base. This equates to 2,496,204 Smart Meters installed. Please see our report here: https://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/losses/static/pdfs/smart-meters-and-losses-best-practice-review.bbbb974.pdf
Customers rely on UKPN to keep their lights on, and, if they do ever go out, we restore their supply as quickly as possible. We’re proud that London is the most reliable of the UK’s 14 distribution network licence areas. The improvements we have made to the health of our networks since 2010/11 have resulted in a significant reduction in both the frequency and duration of power cuts throughout our networks, making us the UK’s most reliable electricity network operator. We have developed ever-more sophisticated ways to prevent faults occurring and speed up the repair process. Automation and remote control have been major contributors to these improvements.
The two ways in which network reliability is measured globally include SAIDI and SAIFI. SAIFI is the average number of interruptions a customer would experience. SAIDI is the average length of time a customer would be without power, for power cuts lasting three minutes or longer.
Our performance in numbers:
Figures are for our London network only, and excludes exceptional events and short interruptions, and are provisional.
As the industry leader in HV automation systems, we wanted to develop similar automation at the EHV level, therefore we developed with General Electric new automation logic to apply to EHV outages. After a trial in Q1 2018, this is being rolled out across all compatible EPN and SPN primary substations, currently covering 72%. This year, the new technology has restored 148,000 customers in under 3 minutes, saving on average of 4.7 minutes of customer interruptions per 100 customers.
Stakeholders told us it is frustrating when they experience multiple disruptions due to the same issue. Through extensive engagement and collaboration with:
EA Technology, we developed and deployed a new product that can automatically locate and fix faults numerous times before requiring engineer intervention.
This device has reduced costs by 70% and is now being used by other DNOs, providing the opportunity for customers to benefit across the UK.
To find out more about this project and view a short video about it, visit the following link: https://www.eatechnology.com/blog/2018/08/15/ea-technology-secures-prestigious-contract-with-ukpn-to-ensure-a-safer-stronger-and-smarter-network/
We continue to deploy 11kV automation at a level that far exceeds any other DNO and underpins our industry leading ability to rapidly restore customers in under 3 minutes.
To find out more about how we’re building on this project, read this blog by Tim Manandhar from our Smart Grid Development Team: https://www.current-news.co.uk/blogs/delivering-der-behind-ukpns-most-advanced-networks-control-system
That’s why we developed the world-leading Flexible Distributed Generation. Beginning as an innovation project called Flexible Plug & Play, it has transitioned into business as usual and, by 2020, will be rolled out across the whole of our networks. It has saved our customers more than £70m since 2015 and saved 20,394 tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent environmental benefit of planting 250,000 trees. To find out more, read our media release about the Green Action Plan here: https://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/internet/en/news-and-press/press-releases/Boost-for-bumblebees-through-Green-Action-Plan.html.
As a leader in the transition to becoming a DSO, we can make use of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) owned by our customers, such as rooftop solar panels, to run our networks more efficiently without having to build expensive new infrastructure. We pay for these ‘Smart Grid’ services, offering customers the opportunity to access new sources of revenue.
To facilitate the integration of these resources on our network, we have made our products simple, transparent and accessible. For example, our collaboration with technology start-up Piclo has continued, co-developing their online platform, making it easier for anyone to register and offer their assets to help us run our networks more efficiently. In 2018/19, we became the first UK network operator to make the commitment to market test all remaining RIIO-ED1 load-related reinforcement, aiming to procure at least 200MW from customers’ DER by 2023. Piclo is now used by all DNOs across the country, allowing greater transparency and opportunity for customers to access new sources of revenue.
We also lowered the capacity threshold so that small domestic generators could participate, and we extended the length of our contracts to give customers greater confidence in the return on their investment. The result was an unprecedented 6,000% increase in the number of customers registering their generation assets on Piclo, providing more resource for us to manage our networks more efficiently for all of our customers.
James Johnston, Chief Executive of Piclo, said:
“UK Power Networks was the first DNO to recognise the value in working with an independent market platform to lower barriers and increase transparency for customers. UKPN have shown real leadership and, as a result, we are seeing exciting levels of participation on the platform, including the hard-to-reach, such as community groups.”
We built, at it’s time, the largest battery in Europe in our Smarter Network Storage innovation project. SNS proved, for the first time, that commercial storage can potentially transform the energy grid and play a major role in the transition towards a low-carbon economy. SNS was the first grid-scale battery storage project in the UK and the only one of its kind currently operating on the energy network when it was developed. It proved, for the first time, that energy storage has the potential to be both technically and commercially viable. The two-year trial of the 6MW/10MWh “big battery” – which is the size of three tennis courts and can store enough electricity to power 6,000 homes for 1.5 hours at peak times* – began in 2014.
Our groundbreaking research didn’t stop at large scale batteries, because we knew that smaller-scale storage had an important role to play too. Our innovation project Domestic Energy Storage and Control (DESC) demonstrated that domestic energy storage coupled with solar panels on people’s homes also had a role to play in the transition to a low carbon economy. Working with Imperial College London, we proved it is possible for network operators to influence how and when clusters of domestic batteries release their energy onto the network.
This research, which began in 2016, paid off just two years later when we became the first ever network operator in the UK to sign a contract to procure flexibility services from a ‘virtual power station’ backed by domestic batteries and rooftop solar panels. The fleet of batteries in 40 homes across the London Borough of Barnet, North London, were to be remotely controlled to combine the output from domestic solar panels and ensure they are fully charged and ready for the weekday evening peak demand. The flexibility provider was recruited to offer the services following a competitive bidding process.
To help customers engage in our flexibility market, we have produced a number of resources to make it easier for distributed energy resources to connect to our network. You can view the full set of resources on our dedicated DER page here: https://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/electricity/distribution-energy-resources
We have connected more than 700 high voltage and extra high voltage/EHV generators, and 164,000 LV generators to our network in the last five years alone. We now have 12.2GW of distributed generation in total on our networks. We established our credibility as the utility that can deliver change by connecting unprecedented volumes of renewable energy at record pace. In the seven years between 2011 and 2018, more than 7GW of renewable energy was connected directly to our networks.
That’s almost the same as the UK’s entire nuclear power output, in a fraction of the time and cost it typically takes to build one of them, and we took it in our stride. The volume of distributed generation connections enquiries rose almost tenfold from 900 to more than 8,000 in just five years. Despite the huge increase in volumes, we still achieved a customer satisfaction score of 89%.
Our DER customers have told us the cost of connecting to our networks can sometimes make their projects unviable, so they would like us to explore opportunities to make it cheaper to connect.
We know that we can add more capacity by building more infrastructure, but this is costly, so, in 2018, we undertook a number of innovative initiatives to reduce the amount of infrastructure we need to build, saving customers’ money and allowing cheaper connections to our networks.
In total, these initiatives have created over 500MW of new capacity (assuming the average cost of new renewable generation capacity is £1m per MW). This in turn could allow £500m of additional investment of renewable generation into our networks and even greater value for money for our customers.
Furthermore, in 2019, we partnered with leading companies from the UK, US and Australia in scaling up our active network management system. This is an advanced digital platform that allows our network to be run closer to its limits safely, freeing up capacity for our customers and enabling additional connections without costly and time-consuming reinforcement.
We are now the first DNO in the country to begin rolling this out across the entirety of our network. These initiatives, coupled with our long-term regional development plans, have enabled us to significantly increase network capacity and provide the new lower cost connection offerings that our customers asked us for.
There are parts of the UK Power Networks distribution network where constraints such as capacity, voltage or reverse power flow issues mean that the cost of connection is very likely to be higher than expected, because of the additional reinforcement works required.
A flexible connection will provide a connection in the existing network without the need for reinforcement. For this to work, the customer must be willing to accept temporary reduction to their export to ensure the network is kept within operational limits and the constraint is not breached.
That’s why we developed the world-leading Flexible Distributed Generation. Beginning as an innovation project called Flexible Plug & Play, it has transitioned into business as usual and by 2020 will be rolled out across the whole of our networks. It has saved our customers more than £70m since 2015 and saved 20,394 tonnes of CO2, which is the equivalent environmental benefit of planting 250,000 trees.
UK Power Networks is a standard bearer in facilitating the transition to a low carbon economy. Most of the innovations that we pioneer support that cause, from preparing the way for the mass uptake of Electric Vehicles to enabling low cost, easy access to renewable energy across our networks. That is our greatest contribution to protecting the environment, but we also take responsibility for our own carbon footprint and continually look for ways to reduce the environmental impact of our business.
Our environmental strategy is to minimise our impact, lead by example and support the transition to a low economy. It is our vision to be the most environmentally responsible DNO in the country. To enable us to achieve this vision, in 2017/18, we launched our Green Action Plan. We are taking a long-term view of our environmental responsibilities and it is our aim to lead in the field whenever we can. As with much of our activities, we make a point of collaborating with and learning, not only from our industry peers, but the wider world. This year, we are able to report strong performance against the stretching targets we set ourselves.
Smarter Network Storage (SNS) is a pioneering project to trial the role that storage can play in enabling a low-carbon, decentralised power system and in reducing costs by matching supply more closely with demand. Delivered in 2016, the project features a 6MW/10MWh storage solution comprising approximately 50,000 lithium-ion batteries. This technology has enabled UK Power Networks to manage electricity demand at peak times without building excess capacity. By charging during the day, the Big Battery stores electricity that can then be dispatched in the evening.
UK Power Networks is committed to continuing to reduce its carbon footprint, which is already down 16.7% since 2015.
In autumn 2018, we launched the Green Action Plan, which contains ambitious environmental targets. We believe this plan gives us best-in-class environmental credentials, taking us above and beyond not only our ED1 business plan commitments, but also those of our peers. The creation and execution of Green Action Plan are only achievable through direct customer engagement. It was initially presented in draft to our Critical Friends Panels (CFPs), where we invited participants to challenge its contents and help shape it.
They added new ideas and set stringent targets on air quality and biodiversity. This helped to make it a better strategy. It now includes commitments to achieve recognition from stretching external accreditations, such as through the Carbon Trust. We have also adopted the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals. This demonstrates and reaffirms our commitment to enabling social progress and clean growth at the same time protecting the environment.
In 2018, we also become the first utility company in London to adopt a fleet of electric vans, taking delivery of eight Renault Kangoo vans to serve our customers across the city.
Our electric vehicle experts in the Innovation and Smart Grid teams played a key role as members of the Mayor of London’s EV Taskforce. We’ve committed to enabling the delivery of London’s first five flagship rapid charging hubs, which will enable multiple vehicles to be charged in one place.
Find out more about our Green Action Plan here: https://www.ukpowernetworks.co.uk/internet/en/news-and-press/press-releases/Boost-for-bumblebees-through-Green-Action-Plan.html
In the 12 months to March 2019, 29% of the UK’s electricity was supplied by renewables (onshore wind 10.4%, offshore wind 8.5%, bioenergy 7.2%, hydro 1.6% and PV 1.5%), however this can’t be calculated for our networks alone. The table shows that UK Power Networks is facilitating significant amounts of renewable energy connections across our network:
We relish the challenge of enabling the electric transport revolution and will deliver this through our forward thinking EV readiness strategy.
We have three key objectives for our EV approach:
By segmenting our focus into these three areas, we are taking a strategic approach to enabling the electric revolution at the lowest cost to our customers.
Our innovation work on electric vehicles makes us a leader in the field and means we are prepared for the future.
We have developed best-in-class forecasting. Developing industry-leading forecasting tools through projects such as Recharge the Future means we can predict down to unprecedented granularity when and where EV-related load will increase on our network.
We are also investing £41m over four years in targeted granular network monitoring. We are installing strategically-targeted Low Voltage monitoring in substations that we predict will be affected by EV load, with 600 being installed in 2019. We also understand the value of grid edge equipment in building a wider level of LV visibility, so we are partnering with third party intermediaries to collaborate on data.
Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology offers tremendous potential to integrate more low carbon energy onto the network and help manage the forecasted growth of electric vehicles in the UK. UK Power Networks is leading the way in demonstrating this technology and the possible revenue stacking options. Transpower is an innovation project running until September 2021 that will investigate the network impact of V2G and develop vital learnings about how we can develop a market to harness this spare capacity. We are looking at domestic, commercial and public charging points through a series of demonstrator trials and collaborative research and development.
As part of TransPower, we are involved in the following projects, covering different segments of the EV market:
Optimise Prime is the world’s biggest trial of commercial EVs. It seeks to develop practical solutions to the challenges preventing fleet vehicle operators from going electric. It will develop technical and commercial solutions to save customer more than £200m by 2030 and enable the faster transition to electric for commercial fleets and private hire vehicle operators. The project is also playing a vital role in helping the UK meet its carbon reduction targets. The accelerated adoption of commercial EVs will save 2.7m tonnes of CO2, equivalent to London’s entire bus fleet running for four years or a full Boeing 747-400 travelling around the world 1,484 times. The flexibility provided by the project will also free up enough capacity on the electricity network to supply a million homes.
We are undertaking important work to develop software designed to automatically assess flexible types of connections such as timed connections. Timed connections are particularly suitable for large EV loads, such connections help unlock grid capacity and minimise connection costs. This is done by managing usage at peak times and releasing additional capacity at off-peak times, avoiding or deferring the need to build new infrastructure. As a result, timed connections are being looked at as an alternative to traditional reinforcement, as well as an element of behind the meter capacity optimisation.
Our smart charging trials will unlock the true value of flexibility for customers who drive electric vehicles and create the country’s first smart charging market for electric vehicle drivers. This new market will put electric vehicle drivers in control, enabling them to charge when and where they wish, while rewarding people who choose to fill up their vehicle outside the morning and early evening electricity peak times.
Filling up a typical electric vehicle on a fast charger consumes roughly as much electricity as a house would use at the peak time of the day, and clusters of electric vehicles can place significant additional demands on the local electricity infrastructure. UK Power Networks is developing innovative ways of managing this additional demand on its network through smart charging and by doing so, keeping energy bills lower than if new infrastructure was built unnecessarily. We’re currently testing and developing different approaches to smart charging as part of an innovation project called Shift. We are conducting trials under this project in collaboration with a consortium of EV charging and flexibility providers from across the smart charging industry such as Kaluza, Octopus and Pod Point. This project will assess the technical and commercial requirements to enable the benefits of smart charging to be realised for UK consumers.
As the provider of a vital infrastructure service, it is essential that UK Power Networks can prevent or withstand a range of possible catastrophes that could befall us. Historically, extreme weather has been the primary risk for which we have had to be prepared. In recent years, however, cyber-attacks have become an increasingly pressing concern. Terrorism is not new, but its threats are ever more complex. Our growing reliance on IT systems makes IT failure, be its cause deliberate or not, a further source of potential danger.
The protection and resilience of our information and operational technology is of critical importance to UK Power Networks. We have a dedicated cyber security team and specialist support partners who oversee and operate comprehensive set of cyber security controls and measures. These are compliant to ISO27001 and legal requirements of Smart Energy Code and the Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive which covers the cyber resilience of our critical systems. We are also certified as complaint with the Cyber Essentials scheme as published by the UK National Cyber Security Centre.
In 2016, working with the Cabinet Office and its Emergency Planning College (EPC), we became the first utility to be independently reviewed on our functions of Organisational Resilience, based upon the BS 65000:2014. We have continued these reviews annually to embed our strategy and we strive to become more resilient each year.
The focus we put on organisational resilience is intense. The leadership team is driving our resilience programme and, in 2018, we created a new role of Organisational Resilience Manager. This role is dedicated to providing consistent focus on anticipating and managing the multiplicity of threats to our business.
Key actions in the last 12 months included:
In 2018/19, UK Power Networks achieved its highest ever customer satisfaction rating: 88%, and we have the lowest complaint rate of all the DNOs in Great Britain, at 84 complaints per 100,000 customers. In that same year, for the first time, we featured in the Institute of Customer Service’s UK Customer Satisfaction Index; we were the only DNO to be included.
The energy sector is undergoing unprecedented change and, as part of that, customers’ requirements are inevitably changing too. To ensure we are always at the forefront and keeping pace with their evolving needs, we look across the horizon to anticipate the next developments. We keep a close eye on how our customers are feeling about the service we provide, through industry surveys and our own feedback mechanisms.
“UK Power Networks has demonstrated that the customer is at the heart of their organisation. At a time of even greater uncertainty, a sustained approach to delivering an exceptional customer experience has never been more important.”
Jo Causon, CEO, Institute of Customer Service
In 2018, we forged a partnership with Community Energy England to bring us closer to community energy organisations and allow us to improve our understanding of the issues affecting them. Through this, we learnt that these groups can play an important role in their local communities, but their projects are having difficulty getting off the ground, limiting their opportunity to help their customers and contribute to our Smart Grid.
This year, to address this difficulty, we commissioned two pieces of research, one that captured the views of over 60% of community energy groups in our region to help us thoroughly understand their needs. We teamed up with Community Energy England and Community Energy South to understand how to provide support to make their projects viable and ensure other stakeholders, particularly Local Authorities, knew how to work in closer partnership with them. This work culminated in a first-of-its-kind regional community energy report and a Local Energy Guide for Local Authorities. We launched our findings in Parliament, taking our community groups’ voice right to the heart of government, highlighting the lack of funding and technical support as a serious inhibitor to local schemes. Through financial support, using our Power Partners Fund and providing technical expertise along with promoting the revenue opportunities available by supporting our network management, we have helped five community schemes get off the ground this year.
In 2019, Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, Member of Parliament for Hastings and Rye, said: “I strongly support the work of community energy companies on several important fronts. They are playing their part in getting more low carbon energy into the system while helping some of our most vulnerable residents. I’m delighted to see UK Power Networks forging closer links with community energy groups, including the important work they are doing in my own constituency of Hastings and Rye with Energise Sussex Coast.”
The introduction of smart meters in the UK is important to our transition to a DSO and UK Power Networks is committed to facilitating their uptake by as many of our customers as possible.
As we explained in the Data Analytics section, in some instances, a DNO visit is required to enable a smart metering installation to proceed. Last year, we made 38,895 such visits and consistent feedback from our customers, via surveys and our roadshow events, has told us we need to limit customer inconvenience to ensure our service is the best it can be.
In response, this year we held over 40 meetings with the top ten energy suppliers and we surveyed their satisfaction with our service, with a clear purpose to deliver a joined-up service for our customers. The broad measure customer feedback mechanism from Ofgem does not capture engagements with customers receiving smart meter services from us. We went above and beyond our regulatory requirements and introduced technology to become the only DNO to capture these missing interactions and provide every customer with the opportunity to provide feedback.
With over 1,500 having done so, we can now keep our finger on the pulse of what customers want. As a result, we now know that 93% of our customers are satisfied with this service, a metric to which we did not previously have access. Using customer feedback, we made many improvements. For example, when customers need a visit from us after an appointment with their energy supplier, they told us they want to book appointments there and then. We agreed, so we trialled with EDF Energy, meter operators having the ability to make appointments on site with us directly.
“Tremendous cross-company work took a disjointed customer experience to one that was customer centric.” EDF Energy Smart Metering Manager.
Our DER customers have told us the cost of connecting to our networks can sometimes make their projects unviable, so they would like us to explore opportunities to make it cheaper to connect.
We know that we can add more capacity by building more infrastructure, but this is costly, so, in 2018, we undertook a number of innovative initiatives to reduce the amount of infrastructure we need to build, saving customers’ money and allowing lower cost connections to our networks. In the last year alone, we’ve had meetings with a total of 252 different DER providers.
We know we have an important role to play in supporting our more vulnerable customers, making sure they are not left behind in the energy transition. That’s why we launched our £300,000 Power Partners’ fund, which is giving sums of between £2,000 to £20,000 to 40 not-for-profit organisations and community groups to help households across London, the South East and East of England save money by being more energy efficient.
We are the lowest cost network operator in the UK, with a customer satisfaction rating of 88% and the lowest complaint rate of all network operators, at 84 per 100,000.
Collaboration: We collaborated with international partners to look for new technologies that can unlock our existing assets. As a result, we are installing the world’s first distribution network level load balancer. This advanced technology has previously only been used on transmission networks, but is now being deployed in Colchester in the East of England, enabling an additional 95MW for customer connections and saving our customers £8m.
Multi-targeted approach: We created a programme of works to combine advanced analysis, monitoring and targeted network upgrades aimed at releasing more capacity at lowest cost. This programme has led to the release of 182MW in our Southern Network, SPN and 232MW in the East, in EPN for additional connections.
In total, these initiatives have enabled over 500MW of capacity, and with the average cost of renewable generation at £1million / MW, this in turn could allow £500m of additional investment in renewable generation into our networks.
The industry measures customer satisfaction with a regular survey of 300 customers. This gives us the Broad Measure of Customer Satisfaction but, of course, we serve many more customers than that. We decided to offer a way for all customers to let us know, in real time, what they think of our service, to complement this industry measure. Taking our lead from ‘fin-tech’ organisations and challenger energy companies, we designed a mechanism that gives us almost instant feedback. We now receive over 2,000 comments each week, all delivered within 48 hours of our contact with the customers. This year, we made over 150 improvements to our power cut processes as a result. Satisfaction scores for ease of contact increased from 89% to 92%.
In 2017/18, we were the first DNO to introduce parcel-delivery-style tracking of power cuts, allowing customers to monitor progress of the repairs required to restore their power supply. This was one of several improvements to our website that were driven by stakeholder suggestions. Based on feedback from our customers, we made over 30 improvements to our website, and the result were customer satisfaction scores of customers who use the site was 91% compared to a score of 88% for those who do not.
We mentioned earlier that we can use Distributed Energy Resources to help run our network more efficiently. With more than 165,000 generators connected locally to our network, providing over 10GW of electricity, there is tremendous amount of resource to draw upon. The additional financial support we can provide in this way makes the case for investment, and naturally encourages the growth of more renewables on to the system. This is at the very heart of the Smart Grid.
Communicating these benefits and opportunities to customers, however, is undoubtedly complex and a challenge that needs to be overcome. This chimes with what our stakeholders are telling us, specifically through our CEO Panel, who asked for a suite of easily identifiable and simple to understand Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure our progress towards a smart grid.
Our challenge was to find a way to make complex service offerings as simple and transparent as possible, allowing everyone, from domestic customers through to prosumers and big business, the opportunity to participate. We worked with our stakeholders to help develop a simple, but effective campaign: ‘a smart grid for all’.
We reached more than 31,000 potential customers using multiple channels:
This initiative shows the breadth of engagement we have undertaken in what is a fundamental change for the industry, allowing stakeholders a crucial voice during the transition.
We picked up the ‘Constellation Award for Collaboration with Customers’ at the Utility Week Star Awards (June 2018) for our ‘a smart grid for all’ campaign in recognition for placing customers at the heart of our plans and prioritising listening to our stakeholders.
During 2018, we presented draft KPIs to our CEO Panel, before updating and further co-creating, with stakeholders on our Critical Friends Panels, a suite of 15 KPIs covering value to customers, environmental benefits, technical performance and customer satisfaction. Our performance against these KPIs is regularly reported to members of our executive team and will be published annually, providing accountability and transparency of progress to our stakeholders.