Western Power Distribution upgrades smart grid connectivity with Nokia

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UK utility Western Power Distribution (WPD) is upgrading its grid communications network infrastructure with Nokia.

The utility is testing a 4.9G IoT communications network provided by Nokia under the LTE Connecting Futures smart grid pilot programme.

The IoT network will be used by the utility’s supervisory control and data acquisition system for data telemetry and connectivity of intelligent grid devices such as smart meters and smart sensors.

Operators at Western Power Distribution’s Test and Development Centre in Taunton will use the network to monitor the grid system providing electricity to consumers in the Midlands, South West and Wales.

The private LTE network will also be used for mission-critical systems such as voice services, according to a statement.

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The rollout of the network also included the installation of Nokia’s Industrial user equipment including workpads, supporting SCADA and other applications to enhance the utility’s smart grid operations.

Phil Rigden, Telecoms Manager for WPD, said: “Through the challenges posed by the pandemic, we have worked closely with Nokia over the last two years to demonstrate the capability of its 4.9G/LTE private wireless solution to support the operation of our smart grid including SCADA, voice, video and data services. We have been able to document key learnings to share with the utility industry that confirm the suitability of 4.9G/LTE and 5G to provide the connectivity platform for tomorrow’s grid.”

Matthieu Bourguignon, Vice President Europe, Nokia Enterprise, said: “The industrial test environment we have established with WPD is providing a platform to trial various grid use cases on private wireless networks. These include Active Network Monitoring, power quality measurements, CCTV, distributed generation, and automation of the smart grid. The range of applications and uses of private wireless will further support the industry to meet the regulatory challenges of providing clean, sustainable energy.”

Private wireless network slicing was also trialed for the possible use of the same physical networks by tenant companies in the gas and electricity sectors.

A smart grid is expected to play a key role in the utility’s transition to renewable energy resources through the balancing of energy demand and generation.

Western Power Distribution has set a target to achieve net-zero emissions across its operations by 2028. Moreover, leveraging smart grid capabilities will enable the utility to prepare its grid network for the anticipated increase in the use of electric vehicles. The utility says its grid will be ready to support the charging of up to 1.5 million electric vehicles by 2028.