Britain’s smart meter program should adopt active network control approach


London, U.K. — (METERING.COM) — May 7, 2010 – Britain’s smart meter implementation program should adopt an active network control approach based on optimized demand side response enabled by smart metering functionality and an enhanced communication infrastructure.

This is according to a new study from the Center for Sustainable Electricity and Distributed Generation and the Center for Transport Studies at Imperial College and the Energy Networks Association, which is aimed at informing the program in terms of the appropriate functionality to be incorporated within the smart meters and the corresponding requirements on the associated communication infrastructure.

In particular the overall objective was to assess the potential benefits of integrating smart meters into real time distribution network control, with the aim of cost effectively delivering the nation’s carbon reduction targets – including a greenhouse gas emission reduction of at least 80 percent by 2050 – alongside potentially significantly increasing levels of electricity production and demand driven by the incorporation of the heat and transport sectors into the electricity system.

The study finds that optimizing responsive demand has the potential to reduce the system peak and the need for system reinforcement by a very considerable amount. At the national level, the full penetration of electric vehicles and heat pumps could increase the present daily electricity consumption by about 50 percent, while doubling the system peak. However, by optimizing demand response the peak increase could be restricted to only 29 percent, resulting in massively improved utilization of generation and network capacity, and significantly reduced network investment. At the local distribution network level, significant benefits of optimizing demand response in relation to the network capacity are observed even for very low levels of penetration of electric vehicles and heat pumps.

The net present value of network reinforcement for the “smart” active real time control approach ranges between approximately £0.5 billion and £10 billion, depending on the penetration of electric vehicles and heat pumps, the study finds.

The study report says that given the analysis is based on fixed, average load patterns, and does not capture the variability of particularly lumpy loads, the benefits of active network control are underestimated. In addition, the application of hourly time resolution and assuming fully balanced loading conditions will also result in the benefits being undervalued.

Further, there will be a spectrum of other potentially significant benefits of advanced smart metering functionality and enhanced communication infrastructure that have not been considered in this study, such as benefits from reduced generation capacity requirements, and provision of flexibility and contribution to national and regional system balancing and enhanced utilization of the transmission network. Moreover, the ability to influence responsive demand in real time through smart meters will have the potential to increase the ability of the system to accommodate a range of future energy scenarios, incorporate vehicle-to-grid applications, and enable distributors to contribute to the national demand-supply residual balancing function and improve real time management of the transmission system.

There is thus a need to adopt a smart approach from the outset and a compelling case to develop a smart metering and communications functional specification that will enable the required paradigm to be realized, the study report says.