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UKPN comes in top spot in international smart grids index

Image: UKPN.

Image: UKPN.

UK Power Networks has come out on top of the SP Group’s Smart Grid Index (SGI) for 2020, jumping ahead of last year's winner, US company PG&E.

Overall UK DNOs dominated this year’s index, with four companies listed in the top ten of 85 utilities spread across 37 countries/markets. The list uses a quantifiable framework over seven dimensions to score smart grids, providing a benchmark from which best practices can be identified according to the SP Group.

UKPN gained a score of 94.6%, with best practices identified in monitoring and control, DER integration, green energy, security and customer empowerment and satisfaction. As such it only missed out of best practice recognition in data analytics and supply reliability.

Chair of the Energy Systems Data Taskforce, Laura Sandys, wrote on Twitter that it was “quite an achievement for the UK in best network 'Hall of Achievement'”.

Following on from UKPN, Western Power Distribution (WPD) took the third spot with a score of 91.1% while ninth and tenth places were taken by SP Energy Networks (SPEN) and Northern Powergrid respectively, with scores of 83.9% and 82.1%.

Speaking to Current±, Barry Hatton, director of asset management at UKPN, said the company had committed to working closely with industry and co-create new products and services to “aid our transition to the electricity network of the future, and that commitment remains key to our success” when it published its Future Smart Strategy in 2018.

“We aim to be a leader in creation and collaboration to ensure we secure the low-carbon economy that’s best for society. By working collaboratively, sharing good practice and by keeping our customers at the heart of our approach, we aim to deliver a smart grid for all.

"We’re delighted that our work has been recognised on a global stage in the Smart Grid Index, but we know there’s still a lot to do to transition from a distribution network operator to a distribution system operator.”

Globally, utilities have made progress by embracing new technologies to develop smarter grids. In particular, there has been an increasing focus on data analytics, with utilities improving by an average of 11%.

Ben Godfrey, WPD’s Network Strategy manager added that the company was “delighted” to be recognised for their work.

“It is clear that smarter, more flexible electricity networks are a key enabler for decarbonisation and that accelerated investment in UK electricity distribution networks will deliver Net Zero on or before 2050. Ofgem have played a key part in making the UK a world leader in the development of this technology through innovative regulatory frameworks and supportive funding streams. Their innovation funding through initiatives such as the LCNF and NIA has allowed the industry to fund research and innovation for more than 20 years and the regulatory incentive mechanisms in place under RIIO have enabled network operators to move quicker compared to the rest of the world.

“Ensuring a smarter network will be vital to achieving many of the Government’s aims and ambitions for the energy sector which have been outlined in recent months. Smarter, more flexible networks are creating capacity for low carbon technology connections far quicker and cheaper than would be possible through conventional grid technology.”

Compared with the Asia-Pacific region and North America, utilities in Europe improved the most with regards to the data analytics, DER integration, green energy and security metrics.

Thanks to advances made by UK utilities and those across the continent, European utilities have now caught up with other regions in terms of green energy and security.

UKPN director of customer service, strategy, regulation and information systems, Sul Alli, added that recognition in the SGI was “credit to the hundreds of employees across multiple directorates who support our work in this area".

“We know there is still a lot to do to transition from a distribution network operator to a distribution system operator but this recognition demonstrates that we are on the right path.”

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