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Revolutionary green energy project could help transform London’s energy supply

UK Power Networks has been awarded funding for a cutting edge project that could pave the way for hundreds of megawatts of low-carbon energy to enter London’s power supply.

From Press releases - 5 December 2016 12:00 AM

UK Power Networks has been awarded funding for a cutting edge project that could pave the way for hundreds of megawatts of low-carbon energy to enter London’s power supply.

The project is UK Power Networks’ seventh straight successful bid in innovation funding competitions, and builds on the company’s industry-leading record of innovation projects including Smarter Network Storage, the first grid-scale battery storage solution in operation in the UK, and Low Carbon London. The company has a track record of converting its innovation projects into real savings for customers. In the last year, the company has saved renewable energy generation customers over £60m by pioneering quicker, cheaper, flexible connections.

The company has been awarded £6 million of funding from the Network Innovation Competition, administered by Ofgem, to develop an entirely new piece of hardware that will ensure many more Combined Heat and Power generators can connect to the electricity distribution network safely and cost-effectively.

The project, called Powerful-CB, will use advanced power electronics technology to develop a new type of circuit breaker that is 20 times faster than existing ones. This high speed operation provides extra protection for the electricity network, allowing many more highly efficient Combined Heat and Power (CHP) units to connect before the network needs to be upgraded.

Across London, many major offices and housing developments have their own CHP units, which capture the heat created as a by-product of electricity generation and circulate it round a building instead of having a separate boiler. They are up to 30% more efficient than having separate electricity generators and boilers and save energy users on average 20% off their energy bills[1].

At the moment, most of London’s power is generated in power stations outside of the capital, which also generate heat, but it is sent up the chimney into the atmosphere. The London Plan aims for a quarter of London’s heat and power to be generated in the capital by 2025[2], which could save more than 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

It is expected this will lead to a large increase in demand for the connection of CHP units, which are highly efficient in generating heat and power at the same time (combined heat and power). This means they use less energy than conventional energy systems in meeting the same energy demand.

However constraints that this rapid change could cause on the electricity distribution network could make that target hard to achieve safely without prohibitively expensive infrastructure upgrades – or advances in technology.

London will become the first city in the world to host the Powerful-CB device, which could revolutionise the way energy is distributed, and could help keep down electricity connection costs for CHP customers.

Suleman Alli, Director of Safety, Strategy and Support Services at UK Power Networks, said the project demonstrated the business was using the very latest technology to respond to the demands of its customers.

He said: “We are setting out to meet the demand from developers and businesses who want to generate environmentally-friendly, cost-efficient energy. By reducing the cost of connecting smaller-scale energy generation to the network, we are going to open the door for so many more CHP devices to join the network and provide low-carbon energy for Londoners.

“The way we get our electricity is changing, and UK Power Networks is determined to be at the forefront of this revolution and deliver a secure, affordable and low-carbon energy supply for London.”

Jonathan Brearley, Senior Partner, Networks, Ofgem, said: “Britain’s networks will play a crucial role as we head towards a smarter energy system. UK Power Networks’ Combined Heat and Power project, along with the other winning bids in Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition this year, will test a variety of new technologies and arrangements. If successful these winning projects will provide networks with valuable learning that may be incorporated into their everyday working practices, providing financial and environmental benefits to consumers.”

UK Power Networks is working with the support of organisations including Imperial College as well as project collaboration partners ABB and Applied Materials.