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A new report brings the opportunity to revitalise network planning standards A leading UK smart grid project, the Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR) has published important new learning that could help inform and update UK electricity industry network planning standards ACE49, ETR130 and G59. The four-year CLNR project, which came to an end in December 2014 was principally funded by Ofgem’s Low Carbon Network Fund, and aims to kick-start the radical change electricity networks need to make the low-carbon energy sector a reality.

The new study, Review of the Distribution Network Planning and Design Standards for the Future Low Carbon Electricity System, draws on the mass of data collected during the CLNR’s real-world study into current and emerging load and generation characteristics. It explores the challenges posed by the increasing integration of distributed generation from solar PV and wind farms, as well as the impact of electricity intensive low carbon loads including electric vehicles and heat pumps on current industry planning and design standards.

The 78-page report makes recommendations to update existing standards ACE 49, ETR 130 and G59, which date back to the 1950s and 1960s, when the UK’s electricity distribution networks expanded considerably to meet increasing customer requirements. Whilst networks were developed in accordance with network planning and design standards that have stood the test of time and are still relevant today, the report responds to the increasing integration of new low carbon technologies with fundamentally different technical and operational characteristics, flagging the need to respond at the planning and design stage with the assistance of revised standards.
CLNR studied the load and generation profiles of 13,000 domestic, SME, industrial and commercial customers, many of whom had low carbon technologies such as solar PV, electric vehicles and heat pumps. The majority had smart meters providing accurate information every 30 minutes. The resulting data updates the industry’s current understanding of electricity consumption and generation profiles across a representative cross-section of customer and demographic groups.

Manuel Castro, Senior Consultant at project partner EA Technology, said: “Our report makes several key recommendations. Starting with ACE 49, load curves are different now so it’s important to update how we categorise customers. The way that we consume electricity has changed, and the existing predefined group types in the domestic sector are no longer appropriate. The CLNR has looked at how we can better cluster consumers, as the current standard method, characterised by the amount of consumption and the type of equipment we use, is obsolete. The way we consume electricity is in fact dependent on our demographic – whether rural or urban, high or low income and so on.
“This is a smarter approach, as the report shows. New technologies are coming into the home, and the government is incentivising their deployment. The new operating requirements these entail present different problems and the behaviours of these technologies also need to be incorporated into the standard.

“Looking at ETR 130, which provides guidance on assessing the capability of a network containing distributed generation to meet demand, the F-Factor numbers used were calculated based on what was happening at the time the standard was developed. Up-to-date information provided by CLNR means that we have a lot more data available to us and we have made use of this to inform the values of the F-Factors to produce much more precise figures.
“In respect of Engineering Recommendation G59, which relates to connecting generating plant to the distribution systems, we have also ticked the box. This standard has been constantly updated over the past few years and we have been able to hone our information to make sure that electrical energy storage (EES) technology is included and can be treated as a normal form of distributed generation.”
Operations Technology Manager Dave Miller of Northern Powergrid, the electricity network operator leading the project, added: “The electrification of heating and transport to meet government carbon reduction plans has required network operators to re-evaluate the design and operation of our networks to ensure we can support the transition to a low carbon economy.

“The CLNR project is breaking new ground in increasing our understanding of how we should be adapting our network planning and design, and we’re exceptionally proud to make these results available to everyone. Our intention is that this data will be used to help improve network efficiency and support the uptake of low carbon technologies without the need for large-scale upgrades to network infrastructure.”

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