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Active network management, EV industry standards and more storage: Inside SSE’s energy system works

Distribution network operator and energy firm Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSE) has revealed how it is preparing for a new, more flexible energy system in the UK.

The firm published its results for the financial year ended 31 March 2017 this morning, centring on its position as one of the UK’s ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers. But within the disclosure were details of how it is adopting new technologies and systems as the UK’s network becomes smarter.

Central to this work is the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Ofgem’s views on the transition of DNOs to more flexible distributed system operator (DSO) role, a transition which SSE said it believed would “meet the needs of a flexible and decarbonised electricity system”.

This transition has been discussed widely by DNOs and has included a broad scope of works, however SSE has cited three projects it has spent the last year working on which are expected to “inform” its own transition.

The New Thames Valley Vision project looked into a number of different technologies and management methods in anticipation of a growing number of decentralised energy generators connecting to the grid including, but not limited to, EV chargers, heat pumps and solar PV.

Smarter ‘active network management’ including network monitoring, battery storage and thermal storage technologies were all adopted and the initial findings from the project will inform the utility on to avoid costly network reinforcement works through their use.

In a similar vein, SSE’s Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) project on the Shetland Islands incorporated both large and small-scale energy storage solutions to allow for a 200% increase in Shetland’s renewable energy contribution by more effectively managing grid constraints.

SSE said that the project’s findings are to be modelled across the entire British electricity network and will play a “vital role” in adapting to a more flexible and decentralised future.

Meanwhile SSE has also been working extensively on the electric vehicle front amidst growing concerns that the UK energy network is not prepared enough for an expected surge in demand.

Last month a report issued by industry think tank Green Alliance claimed that as few as five electric vehicles charging at one location in an area of particular grid constraint could be enough to cause brown outs, urging that the next government “govern intelligently and actively” or face “intolerable outcomes”.

“Politicians are arguing over whether or not to subsidise renewables without seeing how technology has changed the big picture. They believe that they hold the purse strings. But, within the next five years, the government will lose the ability to constrain small scale energy technologies by limiting subsidy because none will be needed. We are entering a new era where the consumer really can take control,” the report stated.

Following on from its My Electric Avenue project, SSE has launched ‘Smart EV’ which will see it collaborate with other DNOs, National Grid, BEIS and Ofgem to produce an industry-wide standard for EV charging in the form of an engineering recommendation.

This, SSE said, will help DNOs protect the country’s low voltage network and allow more EVs to connect.

“[Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks’] innovation projects are designed to help anticipate and prepare the electricity network operators for future energy scenarios… SSEN will continue to engage with industry, policy-makers and the regulator in support of a phased approach to the DSO transition whereby impacts can be carefully reviewed and the best interests of customers maintained,” the results disclosure states.