National Grid and Digital Catapult investigate transmission networks using 5G


A £255,000 ($352.1 million) project aims to assess the application of 5G communications to enhance the monitoring of energy transmission networks across the UK. Utility National Grid is partnering with Innovate UK’s arm Digital Catapult to conduct a feasibility study that will explore the use of 5G networks in monitoring the status of transmission systems.

National Grid will conduct the study through its gas and electricity transmission divisions as part of efforts to explore how digitalisation can help accelerate the energy transition.

The study, 5G Art of the Possible, is the first that seeks to explore the application of 5G within the electricity and gas segments, according to a statement.

5G provides high-speed, reliable and secure connectivity compared to other communications protocols and as such the study will explore how such benefits can be reaped within the transmission sector.

Use cases that will be explored include the use of 5G for digital image inspection, asset condition and health monitoring and field force enablement.

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The project will be implemented in four stages namely:

  • Phase 1 – Understand the capabilities and opportunities offered by 5G networks, looking at current and future capabilities as well as deployment models that could be considered by energy networks. It will also provide an assessment of cyber risks and available security features.
  • Phase 2 – Look into deployment models, focusing on the extended list of use cases* and how business needs can be mapped to the capabilities offered by 5G.
  • Phase 3 – Review in which scenarios the deployment of 5G technology can deliver the most benefits to energy networks and consumers. The assessments will look in detail at performance, cyber security, technical feasibility, risk and economic viability.
  • Phase 4 – Analyse the findings and following the highest scoring applications, these will be developed into technical solutions. This includes preparations of technical specifications, designs and Cost Benefit Assessment, paving the way for follow up proof of concept and pilot projects for a development of a future 5G based solution.

Phase 1 and 2 of the project work has commenced with phase 4 results to be delivered early part of 2022.

Thomas Charlton, Senior Innovation Engineer for National Grid Electricity Transmission, said: “Communication technology is developing at an ever-increasing pace and 5G has the potential to unleash a new wave of innovation for the energy sector. As owner of electricity assets across England and Wales, we can encounter connection issues or bandwidth restrictions. Providing remote connectivity that can be quickly deployed with sufficient bandwidth and resilience, at an affordable price, will need to be an integral part of the energy system transition to net zero.”

Niko Louvranos, Commercial Lead – Energy, 5G & AI, from Digital Catapult, added: “We are experiencing increased demand for high speed and reliable mobile communications as an enabler for the digitalisation and decarbonisation of energy networks to deliver on our net-zero targets. 5G as an applications’ platform can offer significant value in this context and can drive benefits across the UK’s energy networks.”

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