Electricity North West (ENW) is to rollout voltage control devices at its substations to optimise its network, reducing consumer bills and freeing capacity.

The Distribution Network Operator (DNO) will target areas with high uptake of EVs, solar and other low carbon technologies, particularly where they overlap with fuel poverty. It is working with Citizens Advice to identify those areas.

The project, which ENW said will make it the first actively optimised network in the UK, is set to lower consumer bills, as well as pave the way for more low carbon technologies to be connected to the electricity network in the future.

The technology will be rolled out across ENW’s network, with 180 areas to take part over three years, following an £18 million allowance from Ofgem.

Work is set to begin in April 2020 and the first devices will be installed at substations from November 2020.

This comes after a successful £11.5 million four-year trial that ran from January 2014 until April 2018. The ‘Smart Street’ project stabilised voltage using controllable switching devices, dubbed Weezap and Lynx, which were integrated into ENW’s network management system.

The DNO can then reduce the supply voltage to its customers to an optimum level so that the networks and consumer appliances work more efficiently in a technique known as conservation voltage reduction, ENW said.

The trial saw 498 Weezaps devices and 126 Lynx devices installed, as well as 49 end-point monitors, 84 low voltage capacitors, six high voltage capacitors and five on-load tap changing transformers tested.

The equipment was integrated into its network management system and controlled by Siemens Spectrum 5 from ENW’s control centre.

Improvements in energy efficiency as part of the trial resulted in consumer electricity consumption reducing by between 5% and 8% and carbon reductions of between 7% and 10%.

Partners on the trial were; Kelvatek, which provided the Lynx and Weezaps devices, Siemens, which was responsible for the supply, installation and configuration of the optimisation hardware and software, and Impact Research, which provided customer engagement and survey activities.

Key suppliers included; TNEI, the University of Manchester, Queen’s University Belfast and the Tyndall Centre.

Steve Cox, engineering and technical director at ENW, said: “Electric vehicles, heat pumps and other low carbon technologies are the future, but they also place a greater demand on our electricity network. Meanwhile, things like solar panel technology are having the opposite effect, with generated energy being sent back onto the network.

“This technology from Electricity North West will ensure that the performance of appliances in people’s homes and businesses, such as kettles, washing machines and televisions are always working as efficiently as possible.”

The potential carbon saving of the project up until 2050 will be around 143,860 tonnes of CO2 equivalent. This figure takes into account the avoidance of potential network reinforcement costs, as well as reduced energy consumption and smaller electricity losses through distribution.

Smart Street is part of a wider commitment from ENW as part of its £63.5 million Leading the North West to Zero Carbon plan.

In June, fellow DNO Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) unveiled plans for the installation of electric vehicle and demand monitors at substations, which will allow it to have alarms generated when a network nears its limits, identify the best way to optimise capacity on a network, monitor power quality and understand imbalance and losses.

Infrastructure investment firm Equitix and a consortium of investors led by Japanese power firm Kansai Electric Power acquired a 50% stake in ENW earlier this year, concluding a long-running strategic review.

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