Creating innovative solutions to help distribution networks cope with the pressures of new technologies
The distribution network is becoming more complex as customers adopt new technologies (such as electric vehicles, solar photovoltaic generation, storage etc.) and network operators need to be able to utilise different approaches to manage the conditions that arise. Increasingly, this means using innovative solutions, but deciding when and where these should be deployed to deliver value for money is a challenging task.
To address this, we developed the Transform Model®:
- Developed and managed by EA Technology, it supports effective policy formulation and decision making in this context.
- It enables analysis to identify areas where there are likely to be significant changes in distribution networks, provides a platform for examining the future energy scenarios, and informs strategic decisions in respect of energy policy, network planning and investment, ultimately supporting effective risk management.
- It is a flexible model, insofar as the same framework can be used to incorporate data inputs from any network type, solution type or scenario – making it highly suited to adapt to different use cases.
The Transform Model:
- Is a software application which allows parameter based representations of networks, smart grid solutions and changing energy usage profiles to be constructed from common elements.
- Takes real data from network operators, local authorities, central government, and a range of other sources to construct a model showing the demands currently placed on the electricity grid.
- Overlays onto this the anticipated future demands that will come from adoption of various low carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles, domestic level storage and solar panels.
- Can be used to determine the best network investments to ensure that the grid can sufficiently meet the demands of the customer in the future (looking at every year from now until 2060).
- Does this by considering ‘conventional’ solutions (such as new cables and transformers) and ‘smart’ solutions (such as energy storage, real-time thermal ratings, demand side response etc.).
The Transform Model has been robustly tested, and is now used and endorsed by network operators, governments and regulators. Ofgem describe it as ‘world-leading’ in its approach to this challenging area, and is now the accepted industry standard tool for assessing the benefits of innovative approaches. Uses today include:
- For electricity companies: It was used as part of all Great Britain DNOs’ business plans for the current regulatory period (2015-2023). It has also been licensed to NIE Networks (the distribution company in Northern Ireland) and several network operators in New Zealand.
- For technology developers/investors: As the ideal tool to test the benefits of different innovative concepts and has also formed the basis of key business cases for various successful projects.
- For governments: As a tool to understand the cost implications and pressure points of various policy levers on the electricity networks.
The model is continually refined with outputs from such projects to ensure it reflects the latest industry thinking via a managed governance process supported by the UK’s electricity distribution businesses.