Northern Powergrid has today unveiled a six-stage programme for reducing losses and carbon emissions on the electricity network, including the analysis of smart meter data. The programme will enhance the understanding of technical losses and underpin and improve loss reduction across the company’s network serving 3.9 million homes and businesses.

Innovation in network monitoring and the nationwide smart meter roll-out is leading to significant advances in data availability. Northern Powergrid, through its six-step strategy, is making the most of this newly available information to forecast and minimise losses on its network and ensure a prioritised response to replacement work to improve its network.
Northern PowerGrid

“Our programme for losses is underpinned by our ambition to improve our understanding of this complex area,” commented Mark Nicholson, Northern Powergrid’s Head of Smart Grid Implementation. “Losses are currently seen as an unavoidable reality of network operation. The smart meter roll-out is bringing a huge data bonus to those of us involved with loss reduction, enabling us to tackle this issue head on and reduce unnecessary carbon emissions from wasted electricity.

“The national smart meter roll-out and the associated move to a half-hourly market settlement processes will introduce more accurate metering point data. We hope this near-real time data availability will mean technical losses can be more readily evaluated,” added Mark. “Incorporating this data evaluation, and making use of both existing and new data, allows us to move innovative ideas that will deliver improvements into the operational every day.”

The company, which is responsible for the network that delivers power across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, intends to use smart meter data to identify high loss network areas that will benefit from targeted network reinforcement.

The updated programme is part of Northern Powergrid’s Losses Discretionary Reward submission to Ofgem and follows on from a successful submission in 2016. This programme involves a mix of activities from improving the company’s understanding of network losses, engaging with stakeholders and delivering real improvements, to reducing losses through changes to the network.

Since 2012, Northern Powergrid has been carrying out a rolling voltage reduction programme to ensure power supplied to homes matches appliances’ voltage needs. This has resulted in the sites benefiting from loss reduction and a 2.8% demand reduction with no impact to customers. As this programme is rolled out across the network, the company estimates a potential annual saving of £50 million on customers’ bills.

Northern Powergrid has been also working with industry experts WSP to better understand the impact of voltage and harmonic variations on domestic losses. This concluded that a customer’s choice of electrical appliance is the primary influence on domestic losses which aligns with encouraging customers to make energy efficiency improvements and chose more energy efficient appliances in the future.

In conjunction with the new programme, the electricity network company is increasing training for team members and engineers to better tackle losses. It is also embarking on a losses education programme for customers and stakeholders with a new dedicated area of its website.

The six-step approach has been developed following extensive industry, stakeholder and customer collaboration, involving workshops and an open consultation. “Our stakeholder engagement has really opened up our thinking on losses,” concluded Phil Jagger, Smart Grid Development Engineer at Northern Powergrid. “At one event it was suggested that the cost of losses should take into account the variable electricity price during the day and the year, rather than an average annual price.  As a result we are now considering an approach that considers valuing the spot price of losses in our investment decisions.

“Losses are a critical issue and one we are increasingly able to tackle with new information and technology. Improvements in this area will help make the UK’s electricity network as efficient as possible; making the most of the low-carbon generation coming on-line and helping with the decarbonisation of our energy landscape while continuing to provide our customers with a reliable supply.”

Northern Powergrid’s six-step losses approach:

1.       To seek losses reduction through the selection of equipment and installation designs across the full range of our engineering activity. To bring forward work programmes to target losses reduction when justified by cost/benefit analysis;

2.       To use the information flows from smart meters as they become available to better understand, estimate and forecast losses;

3.       To target both the use of demand side response (DSR) to reduce peak loads and existing reinforcement programmes thereby reducing losses;

4.       To review network configuration, both in design and operation, to establish whether the network can be configured to reduce losses and when necessary make these changes;

5.       To work with energy suppliers, police forces and other stakeholders in our region to disconnect illegal and/or unsafe connections; and

6.       Develop our understanding of losses data sufficiently to consider the re-introduction of a financial incentive on losses performance in the RIIO-ED2 period.

The full losses plans can be found here.