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National Grid to explore potential of 5G for decarbonising energy networks

The four phase project will lay the foundations for the rollout of 5G enable applications. Image: National Grid.

The four phase project will lay the foundations for the rollout of 5G enable applications. Image: National Grid.

National Grid has teamed up with UK authority on advanced digital technology Digital Catapult to explore how the adoption of 5G within the electricity and gas transmission networks could help deliver net zero.

Dubbed 5G Art of the Possible, the project will be the first 5G techno-economic feasibility study on UK energy networks, laying the groundwork for potential follow up trials and the rollout of applications.

The project is being funded by a £255,000 Network Innovation Allowance grant, and will be jointly led by National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET), National Grid Gas Transmission (NGGT) and Digital Catapult.

It will investigate the opportunities of 5G in the provision of high-speed and reliable wireless communications to all the digitalisation of processes and applications ranging from digital image inspection and condition monitoring of high-value assets, to field force enablement via improved connectivity.

“Communication technology is developing at an ever-increasing pace and 5G has the potential to unleash a new wave of innovation for the energy sector,” said Thomas Charlton, senior innovation engineer for NGET.

“As owner of electricity assets across England and Wales, we can encounter connection issues or bandwidth restrictions. Providing remote connectivity that can be quickly deployed with sufficient bandwidth and resilience, at an affordable price, will need to be an integral part of the energy system transition to net zero.”

The project will be split into four phases, the first of which will see the companies look to understand the capabilities and opportunities offered by 5G networks, including looking at current and future capabilities as well as the deployment models that could be considered for energy networks. This will also include an assessment of cyber risks and the available security features.

Phase two will look further into deployment models, with a focus on the extended list of use cases and how business needs can be mapped to 5G capabilities.

The next phase will see the companies review the deployment scenarios, to establish which would deliver the greatest benefits to energy networks and consumers. This will include looking into the performance, cyber security, technical feasibility, risk and economic viability of each.

Finally, phase four will analyse all of 5G Art of the Possible’s findings and begin to develop the highest scoring applications found into technical solutions. This will mean preparing the technical specifications, designs and Cost Benefit Assessments, paving the way for proof of concept and pilot projects.

National Grid and Digital Catapult – which was established by Innovate UK – have already begun phases one and two, and expect phase four results to be delivered at the beginning of 2022.

Niko Louvranos, commercial lead for energy, 5G and AI at Digital Catapult said high speed and reliable mobile communications are increasingly being looked to as an enabler for the digitalisation and decarbonisation of energy networks, meaning 5G can offer significant value.

“To this end, we are excited to work with National Grid to jointly undertake this detailed techno-economic assessment of deployment options and uses cases for energy networks. This will help us evaluate the potential benefits from a rollout of 5G and 5G-powered applications, and see how this can fit with National Grid’s current and future operational and business networks.”

5G Art of the Possible forms part of National Grid Electricity Transmission’s Innovation programme.

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