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Northern Powergrid unveil voltage control project to increase network efficiency

The trial will run in Boston Spa (pictured) and Wetherby in West Yorkshire. Image: Northern Powergrid.

The trial will run in Boston Spa (pictured) and Wetherby in West Yorkshire. Image: Northern Powergrid.

Northern Powergrid is looking to lower customers energy bills and reduce carbon emissions by using smart meter data to optimise the network voltage.

The Boston Spa Energy Efficiency Trial (BEET) will kick off in August 2022 in Boston Spa, Wetherby and the surrounding area.

By safely turning up or down voltage levels, the network operator can create the optimal energy efficiency for customers. The specially developed BEET-Box will be used throughout the trial, and is expected to save customers on average £20 on their annual bills, as well as cutting 27kg of carbon a year.

The efficiency savings could also help to unlock network capacity, helping to enable an increase in low carbon technologies such as solar panels and electric vehicle chargers.

“BEET represents a revolutionary application of a well-understood technique that could help to deliver huge capacity savings on parts of our network, while saving our customers energy and money,” said Iain Miller, head of Innovation at Northern Powergrid.

“Innovations such as this are a key enabler of our plans to support net zero. We’re excited to see our smart technology deliver real benefits to our customers and help free up more capacity to decarbonise our region.”

Currently households typically have higher voltage than domestic appliances require to ensure they are compliant with regulations. Due to data insights from the smart meter rollout however, engineers have a real time view of what is on the network, and can therefore adjust voltage to match this more accurately.

The BEET-Box has been developed by Northern Powergrid in conjunction with Fundamentals, Siemens, GE Digital, and The University of Sheffield.

It applies an algorithm developed by power systems technology specialist Fundamentals to smart meter data every 30 minutes, using this to determine the most efficient voltage to supply on the network.

Both houses with and without smart meters currently stand to benefit from the trial. Image: Northern Powergrid.
Both houses with and without smart meters currently stand to benefit from the trial. Image: Northern Powergrid.

The idea for BEET was suggested by Boston Spa Green Group and Northern Powergrid stakeholder feedback panel Keith Jackson.

“Northern Powergrid asked me to join their investigation team,” said Jackson.

“We came up with this innovative solution, which gathers remote voltage readings from smart meters. Northern Powergrid wants to spread the benefits to most of its eight million customers without customers having to do anything. And it will bring CO2 savings and potentially help to release network capacity ready for the growth in electric vehicles –a win, win, win for customers, the planet and the company.”

Following the initial trial Northern Powergrid is planning to rollout the BEET-Box technology across its region – with up to 80% of the 3.9 million customers within it set to benefit by 2033.

It is planning to share the learnings and technology with other electricity network operators, if rolled out nationwide it could save £500 million from consumer energy bills.

Northern Powergrid announced a key focusing on the use of data for decarbonisation in its Digitalisation Strategy and Actions Plan (DSAP) in July, where it laid out plans to invest £234.5 million in data and digitalisation initiatives.

Since then, it has also unveiled a new £2.5 million smart-grid programme, called Microresilience, which will look to protect key infrastructure from extreme weather events and cyber-attacks.

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