Schneider Electric wins contract to deliver smart grid to 5 million people

Distributed energy management system for Electricity North West will bring intelligent energy to 2.4 million properties

Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management, has won a contract to deliver a new Distribution Management System (DMS) for Electricity North West, bringing intelligent energy to 2.4 million properties and more than 5 million people.

The project, which will span three years in design, delivery and integration, will be the foundation of smart grid technology in the region. With increasingly distributed generation of energy, the growth of renewables, an upward trajectory in peak demand and an aging grid, the UK requires a revolution in energy infrastructure. A smarter grid allows the network to become multi-directional and automated, offering regions the ability to use digital communications to detect and react to local changes in usage as part of a smarter energy strategy.

“A smarter grid is vital to put the UK on track to meet the European objective of becoming a low-carbon economy by 2050, as well as allowing energy distributors (DNOs) to meet the goals outlined by Ofgem in the new eight year Price Control Period (RIIO-ED1),” commented Barrie Cressey, Smart Grid Director at Schneider Electric. “The challenges posed by distributed generation, load growth and an aging grid are immense, but intelligent networks have the power to transform energy throughout the country. There are only a handful of such systems in the UK and it’s hugely exciting to be working on a project of this magnitude.”

The DMS, a suite of applications designed to monitor and control the entire network efficiently and reliably, will control energy distribution, intelligently identify and self-heal outages, as well as gather and integrate grid and external data to improve efficiency of the network. The system will support decisions made by control room and field personnel as well as use algorithms to automate system management and response to changes in the network. For example, following network incidents such as storm damage or asset maintenance the system will be able to reconfigure around faults to ensure as many customers as possible remain connected to the grid.

The DMS will help create a more efficient, more intelligent energy network in the northwest. Electricity North West will be better equipped to efficiently manage their asset base and react to outages – ensuring that any service interruptions are kept to a minimum by quickly getting customers back on the grid. The project will also better equip the network to manage the peaks and troughs of supply and demand. As more intermittent energy sources (such as solar, wind and Combined Heat & Power) are introduced to the grid, and as the load becomes more dynamic and difficult to predict, the DNOs need high levels of asset automation to drive operational efficiency and resilience.

The UK is expected to have 10 million homes with solar panels by 2020 and the number of electric vehicles sold will increase to 6.4 million by 2023 creating unprecedented challenges in managing consumption and generation across the grid. In the last eleven months Electricity North West has quoted for over 1800 network connections for distributed generation. Change of this scale and complexity requires a whole new approach to distribution management.

Steve Cox, Head of Engineering at Electricity North West commented: “Over the next eight years, the existing energy infrastructure, designed for a one way flow of energy, will have to deal with a level of complexity never before seen. Future-proofing our systems to cope with this change was absolutely paramount in our choice of who to work with. The modularity of the system that Schneider Electric is able to provide means that we can expand and improve our system according to our needs. Investing in an intelligent grid is vital for us as a business, for our customers and for the UK as a whole. Schneider Electric’s knowledge and passion for how information technology and operational technology are converging impressed us and made them the right partner for this transformative project.”

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