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GB regulator Ofgem has awarded £58 million for five projects to advance innovation in the country’s networks in the transformation towards net zero emissions.

The awards in this latest and largest round of the annual Network Innovation Competition are to two gas and three electricity system projects.

The two gas projects reflect the growing interest in incorporating hydrogen into the future energy system.

The HyNTS FutureGrid initiative from National Grid Gas Transmission intends to build a hydrogen test facility from a range of decommissioned gas system assets. Flows of hydrogen and natural gas blends will be tested at system pressures to better understand how hydrogen interacts with the assets. The data gathered will be used to assess the impact of the hydrogen conversion of the assets.

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The H100 Fife project by Scottish and Southern Gas Networks aims to deliver a ‘first of a kind’ end-to-end network supplying hydrogen to around 300 domestic properties. The project will comprise a hydrogen generation and storage solution powered by offshore wind, supplying a new distribution network laid in parallel to the existing gas network. The £18.1 million ($24 million) award from Ofgem will be supplemented with a further £6.9 million ($9.2 million) from the Scottish government.

The three electricity projects reflect the ongoing challenges of managing networks with a growing penetration of renewable energies.

The Constellation project from UK Power Networks is proposed to transform the existing network management and control systems through the introduction of local intelligence at a substation level.

The Quest project proposed by Electricity North West aims to integrate standalone voltage control schemes into a single scheme. It will develop a novel network-wide coordinated system to manage voltages and balance centralised and decentralised control hierarchies. This should reduce cumulative design margins and free up network capacity.

The RICA project from National Grid Electricity Transmission aims to develop a method of upgrading transmission towers with insulated crossarms to increase the voltage rating from 275kV up to 400kV. This will allow increased power to be transmitted on existing routes without replacing the towers.

“The high level of ambition shown by bidders in this year’s Network Innovation Competition is hugely encouraging and shows the energy industry getting behind the challenge of net zero,” commented Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem.

“The winning projects were those which showed the most potential to make the game-changing leaps in technology we need to build a greener, fairer energy system at the lowest cost to consumers.”

The latest round of Network Innovation Competition awards is the eighth and last being made annually to test new technologies and approaches in the gas distribution and transmission and electricity transmission sectors.

There will be a further two years of the competition for electricity distribution network licensees with £40 million ($53 million) available in both.

In total, Ofgem has awarded £319 million ($425 million) funding to projects.

The authority proposes to increase the level of innovation funding to at least £630 million ($840 million) as part of the next price control framework (RIIO-2), which begins in April next year. The proposals include setting up a new innovation fund to drive research and development into key green projects such as clean alternatives to decarbonise heat.