UK utility trials ‘world first’ renewables-friendly energy market


The UK Power Networks electric utility has stepped up its trial of a regional grid which offers renewable energy generators a revenue stream from providing reactive power services usually only offered by large, conventional power facilities.

The power company, which serves London and the east and South East of England, said its Power Potential project had graduated from tests with individual generators to a live, end-to-end system with multiple power generation assets.

The utility developed the project – which will undergo the current, live testing phase for eight weeks before a three-month commercial market trial ending in March – to help accommodate the 7 GW of distributed energy generation facilities on its grid.

The project will enable small scale generators – including solar, wind and battery projects – to offer national-grid voltage control services which will supplement the efforts made by the power electronics of grid companies and by traditional, large scale generators. Once the commercial system is up and running, small scale generators will be rewarded for providing such services, with U.K. electric system operator – and Power Potential project partner – National Grid procuring reactive power volume.

The electric company said the new system could save electricity bill payers £400 million (€441 million) by mid century and could relieve capacity pressure on the long distance transmission grid sufficient for the utility to accommodate a further 4 GW of local generation in the South East by that point.

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The Power Potential project features an automated distributed energy resources management system developed by Spanish grid systems company ZIV Automation.

Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “Power Potential is truly transformative innovation because it’s fundamentally changing the way we do business and interact with the national transmission system. We’re creating a whole new market for renewable energy providers because it’s what they have asked us to do, and a way to reduce the cost of the whole electricity system to customers. This is arguably the most ambitious innovation project happening across the U.K. energy system right now, and to get to this stage is testament to the collaboration and dedication of an outstanding team of specialists at UK Power Networks, ZIV Automation and National Grid.”

This copy was amended on 28/10/20 to add the fact, supplied by UK Power Networks, that National Grid will procure reactive power services from small generators.

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