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Energy Networks Association outlines more detail for UK smart grid at 'critical time'

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Randolph Brazier, head of innovation and development at the ENA, has said the Open Networks project will deliver 'absolutely critical' work over 2018.

2018 will prove to be a critical year for the development of the UK’s future smart grid system according to the Energy Networks Association’s (ENA) head of innovation and development, who has given Clean Energy News more detail on the upcoming work under the Open Networks initiative.

Earlier this month the ENA launched a consultation on phase two of the project, which will see 29 products delivered over the year. Despite the scale and scope Open Networks increasing significantly from 2017, Randolph Brazier told CEN that it has increased support from the network companies to match.

"It definitely is ambitious, there's no doubt about that. There's a lot of work to get through but we have a commitment from all of the CEOs to basically double the resource from last year. There is a significant increase in the financials but [also] in terms of the resources I mean the manpower that our networks provide us to help us deliver this project.

“The fact that Ofgem and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) highlighted it in their Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan really rode it home that this is absolutely critical and everyone is relying on us to deliver the smart grid through this project.”

The association is seeking views on its four broad areas for the coming year, beginning with investment planning for improving the processing interactions at the interface between the transmission and distribution systems.

Secondly, the Open Networks project will look to bolster reliability standards and emergency requirements in the context of maintaining security of supply across the system.

"Because the mix of generation is changing significantly and essentially a lot of that is being shifted down to the distribution level, we obviously need to make sure that we update our processes and procedures,” Brazier explained.

This stream will seek to consult on how to improve data and communication across the transmission and distribution interface, described by Brazier as “one of the key objectives of this workstream, to improve not only the data that goes between transmission and distribution but also the regularity that they get it as well.”

‘Absolutely critical’ for 2018 is a third stream looking to develop flexibility markets for DNOs, and some are already developing trials. UK Power Networks announced it would seek 34MW of flexibility services across its network in 2018, while Northern Powergrid is also said to be preparing a tender itself by the end of the year.

Brazier said: "We're very much taking a viewpoint to learn while doing, so we're not saying we're going to design the perfect solution straight away. What we want to do is take all the feedback from these trials and innovation projects that the networks are running and feed that back into the overall Open Networks project so that we can design a way that actually physically works with people going forward.”

Five models have been prepared under the final stream for consultation with industry, before independent cost benefit analysis of each model is submitted to Ofgem which are being modelled and tested by the ENA.

  1. The DSO-led world, where any entity - including National Grid – that utilises services connected at distribution level goes via the distribution system operator (DSO) platform.
  2. Joint procurement model, where either the transmission or distribution operator would procure the service and inform the other to avoid conflicts.
  3. Charging based world (said to be favoured by Ofgem) where the flexibility services that DSO and TSOs require is essentially enabled by updating the use of system charging, rather than the DSO procuring from a market.
  4. TSO-led world which would be an extension of the current model where the DSO goes via National Grid for congestion management and flexibility at the distribution level.
  5. An independent platform or body to sit at the transmission and distribution interface similar to the independent platform used in the Netherlands.

These were developed following a ‘two-pronged attack’ during 2017 which included a 'Commercial Principles Paper' consultation and feedback from the Open Networks advisory group.

With a further consultations to follow and yet more engagement with stakeholders through working group meetings, the ENA is keen to ensure that as many people are heard and listened to throughout the industry.

"[Transparency] is absolutely key…we're not just saying it because it sounds good, we really are changing the direction of products and seriously changing what we're doing based on the feedback,” Brazier said.

“The models are the classic examples, we did some initial feedback with our advisory group and came to those three models. After we did the Commercial Principles Paper public consultation it was clear we were missing two so we added them in.” 

The ENA will be hosting an Open Networks webinar on Thursday 15 February to explain more about its 2018 workplan, the details of which can be found here.

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