Flexibility services are provided by organisations (Flex Services Providers – FSPs) that can turn up their supply or reduce their demand on the network to create extra capacity on the network when demand is high. FSPs that provide this service at specified times are paid by the distribution network operator, UK Power Networks. When there is constraint on the network there may not be enough capacity to carry the maximum load and upgrading grid assets may not be cost effective nor be possible in the required timeframes. A market-based approach where money saved by not upgrading the network will be used to pay FSPs to provide flex services, therefore creating capacity, is favoured by UK energy regulator Ofgem as it provides economic incentives for efficient operations. The current process requires UK Power Networks to procure and activate flexibility services manually via email so there is a clear requirement to integrate and automate the process for efficiency, performance and scalability.
In order to resolve the load constraint issues in the most efficient way possible, as well as to reduce costs, FSPs now interact directly and automatically with SGS’s Strata Grid Solution to submit bids/offers, and receive a flexibility dispatch instruction or schedule to which they respond. An instance of Strata Grid is hosted ‘in the cloud’ and secure VPN links are created to allow one way traffic from the core UK Power Networks ANM system, and secure it from any incoming network traffic. External third-party FSPs interact with the ANM system and deliver their flexibility service seamlessly, while UK Power Networks maintains the high level of security required for energy network infrastructure.
In 2021 FSPs are being dispatched in a live operating environment, resolving simulated constraints on the network. This is a crucial test of the end-to-end systems and processes that are essential for automated flex service delivery at scale in the near future. Value-adding enhancements are already under development towards trials including optimization of schedules, aggregation and management of different low carbon technologies and FSP interfaces to a wider set of service providers.
Over 20 generators totalling 100 MW of renewable capacity has been connected saving tens of £millions in avoided grid upgrades. Connection time for DER customers has fallen from years to weeks.
By introducing Smarter Grid Solutions Active Network Management system to an area of our network, we have reduced connection costs for six new distributed generation customers by up to 90%, as well as offering them far shorter connection lead times