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One of Europe's most sophisticated active network management systems, known as the Grand Unified Scheme or 'GUS' has been deployed for the Customer-Led Network Revolution project.

Leading UK smart grid project, the Customer-Led Network Revolution trialled the system across two main test sites in the Northeast of England, to ascertain how the system could be usd to actively manage the electricity distribution network constraints as we move towards a low carbon future.

As part of the project, lead partner Northern Powergrid assessed a variety of network technologies, including voltage control, electrical energy storage and real time thermal rating, and trialled customer demand side response propostions, to find the optimum mix of solutions to support the effect of the uptake of low-carbon technologies on the electricity network.

Siemens’ Active Network Management system, Spectrum Power, was adapted to develop the Grand Unified Scheme which suits the needs of Northern Powergrid’s network.

Dr Vincent Thornley, Portfolio and Technology Manager at Siemens Plc, explains: “The smart grid has been championed for some years now. However, many utilities are unable to reap the full long-term potential offered by smart grids and smart meters, as they do not have the integrated technological capability to utilise them effectively.

“The CLNR project required a smart grid solution with an autonomous control system, capable of optimising voltage control, storage and demand side response across the network, and coordinating the operation of these technologies within the network.”

Dave Miller, Operations Technology Manager, at Northern Powergrid, says: “GUS actively managed the network at our two sites in Denwick and Rise Carr, which serve about 13,000 and 10,000 customers’ premises respectively.

“It’s the most sophisticated of a family of smart grid control systems, so it comes into its own as the network challenges become more complex. For example, in terms of demand side response it helps us work with flexible customers to make best use of the existing network. For the next five to ten years, we expect renewable generation to be one of the main challenges.”

Constraints on the network can be either voltage related, where there are statutory obligations to deliver voltage levels within defined limits, or thermal, where network assets are operated outside normal limits, which could result in faults or loss of supply. Constraint management is the essence of the smart grid and GUS uses a combination of technical and commercial interventions to alleviate network constraints.

Dr. Thornley adds: “Because Spectrum Power takes a whole system view of the network and continually evaluates and reassesses network conditions, it provides the ideal network management tool for GUS when dealing with more dynamic and complex networks, which is inevitable in the future.”
GUS optimises the existing network, thus reducing the necessity for costly network reinforcement and improvements.

Dave Miller comments: “GUS could ultimately reduce customers’ bills because it will minimise maintenance costs and improve the functionality of the network overall. Customers who are able to adapt their electricity use could be offered incentives to pay less to connect in return for their flexibility.”

The CLNR project’s network trials are shedding light on how the electricity network can operate in a more flexible and cost-effective way, which is being shared with other DNOs and industry experts to help create a more efficient smart grid across the UK.

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