In June, UK Power Networks received international recognition for its continuing work towards the advanced development of the power grid it operates across London and the East and South East of England.
Founded in 2010, UK Power Networks is a distribution network operator for electricity that manages three licensed distribution networks. Together, these cover an area of approximately 30,000km2 and serve approximately 18 million customers at the time of writing.
UK Power Networks received its award—the 2019 EEI International Edison Award—at a ceremony that took place in Philadelphia on June 10 of this year.
The EEI International Edison Award
The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) International Edison Award was handed to UK Power Networks in recognition of the company’s innovative work towards the development of a smart grid in the UK and enabling Britain’s transition to low carbon. Since 2015, UK Power Networks’ innovation projects have saved its customers £150 million. This is more than any other power network in the UK.
One of the most prestigious awards in the power industry, UK Power Networks was chosen as its winner by a panel of former energy company chief executives.
Speaking of UK Power Networks, EEI’s president, Tom Kuhn, said, “Energy grids are transforming around the globe at an unprecedented pace in response to climate change and evolving customer preferences. As UK Power Networks has demonstrated, actively listening to, and engaging with customers is vital to realize the benefits of transformative energy solutions.”
UK Power Networks logo. Image Credit: UK Power Networks.
FutureSmart—A Smart Grid for All
With its smart grid, FutureSmart, a “smart grid for all”, UK Power Networks hopes to propel the UK power sector towards a low carbon future by being a leader in the journey to a low carbon economy, something that is driving innovation in the energy landscape.
To efficiently manage the decarbonisation of the energy system, there needs to be a smarter and more flexible approach to energy provision. As more and more homes evolve to support ‘connected living’ equipped with smart, energy-efficient devices, lighting, and heating systems, in addition to homes equipped with domestic energy storage, the need for this approach will grow.
The problem is that current energy distribution networks include a small number of large generators connected on the transmission network. These are often coal-fired and gas power stations with one-way power flows—they are inefficient and cannot scale alongside or cope with digitization and a low carbon world.
In light of this, UK Power Networks’ plans for the ‘new world’ of energy distribution include a large number of generators and distributed energy sources connected to the distribution network. These will be heavily reliant on renewable energy, grid-scale battery storage, and two-way power flows. Energy suppliers on the distribution network will also play a proactive role in engaging customers, something that is not widely practiced at present.
Energy Grids Ready for a Low-Carbon World
The UK’s electricity industry, and indeed electricity industries worldwide, is in the midst of a significant change.
In only six years, the volume of carbon produced as a by-product of electricity generation has fallen by 40%. Commercial energy storage has also risen and is bringing with it a ‘new era’ of renewable energy. For the grid to cope, a smarter, cleaner, more sustainable and cost-efficient approach is needed and this is what UK Power Networks is working towards—putting in place a future-proof grid ready for a low-carbon world.