Coordinating research in energy networks

Smart Grids

This theme is focused on exploring the design of smart grids. In particular this involves examining the application of information and communication technologies to the operation of electricity networks and the harnessing of demand-side, energy storage and further technology advances for the control and optimisation of the power system. Fundamental and applied research is undertaken to uncover the key questions and challenges that the UK and international academic community need to address in this area.

Smart Grid Challenges

Initial research within this theme has identified the following key challenges associated with the development of smart grids:

  • Vague definitions - Terms such as intelligence, flexibility, and robustness are commonplace but ill-defined. Their definition and clear description are necessary for developing and testing solutions. New standards must develop definitions or draw from existing standards through harmonisation.
  • Unproven scalability - Scalability is not sufficiently proven as trial networks are limited in size and scope. A particular solution for a given network may not be suitable for another. The choice of platforms, standard data models, interfaces and architectures are important to achieve interoperability.
  • Piecemeal approach - Even though the use of open standards and platforms is promoted, suggested demonstrations and solutions are usually bespoke to the specific problems and trial network. Potentially conflicting interactions between multiple controllers are overlooked during studies.
  • Verification and validation - Formal approaches to verification and validation are necessary to deal with increased complexity. Functional requirements should be traceable for testing purposes at different stages of the solution life cycle. An ?eco system? of testing standards, policies, tools and test beds is required to build network operator and user confidence.

New approaches to simulation, development, testing and deployment must be taken to ensure smooth integration of new technologies. Data/information sharing is critical for effective stakeholder engagement. Emphasis is shifting towards addressing system integration challenges as opposed to device level technologies.

Smart Grid activity

There are five key elements to the research being undertaken, by the HubNet project, to address these challenges:

  • Designing the Smart Grid - Interactions between smart meters, smart grid and smart asset management along with the role and impact of innovative technologies from the wider research community are a key activity.
  • Connecting the Smart Grid - The required end-to-end performance of the communication system is being defined through a scalable simulation platform for Smart Grid communications.
  • Risks and Reliability in a Smart Grid Environment - The effect of risk and reliability considerations on the design of a Smart Grid is being evaluated.
  • Establishing a Business Case for the Smart Grid - The benefits and value proposition of alternative Smart Grid concepts and technologies under various future UK electricity system development scenarios is being evaluated.
  • Strategic Role and Business Case for Power Electronics - The strategic role and value for power electronics is being evaluated.

A position paper has been written, Lessons Learned from Deployed Smart Grid Protection and Control Strategies. More position papers are in the process of being written, including Smart Grid communications and Smart Grids Blueprint.