Home » UK partnership to develop digital twin of electricity network in net-zero drive

UK partnership to develop digital twin of electricity network in net-zero drive

by Liam Turner
Electricity pylons with the sun in the background

SP (Scottish Power) Energy Networks and Digital Catapult have received funding to explore how applying digital-twin technology to the UK’s energy networks can help the country to meet its net-zero ambitions.

The project – which also involves the University of Strathclyde and National Grid ESO – will use funding from Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) to analyse how an innovative, open and interoperable digital twin of the UK’s electricity transmission and distribution networks can aid decision making when managing and balancing energy resources and assets.

The project also aims to improve understanding of the potential role of advanced digital technologies in achieving the UK’s net-zero targets.

The discovery project will determine the ‘art of the possible’ based on currently available technologies, as well as outlining the use case and minimum viable product for a digital twin of the electricity transmission and distribution networks. 

As part of the project, development of a digital twin of the electricity transmission and distribution network will allow the partners to understand the complete system in real time, providing the ability to visualise and simulate how and when the electricity transmission and distribution network is being used.

In theory, this should allow for a better balancing of the system so that is is utilised in the most optimal, safe, and cost-effective way.

‘Transform and future-proof’

Niko Louvranos, senior Energy and Utilities Practice Lead at Digital Catapult, said: “With the anticipated electrification of heat and transport, and the proliferation of distributed energy resources connected at distribution level – such as electric vehicles, solar, and standalone battery storage – we will see an increase in demand-side flexibility as we aim to achieve the UK’s net-zero targets. 

“We therefore need to have better visibility of the potential impact and efficacy these assets might have when balancing the National Transmission System (NTS), and develop systems and processes to manage this more intertwined and complex system in its future state.”

He continued: “This project is all about understanding how digital twins can support visualising, understanding, and evolving a system as complex as the UK’s electricity networks to respond and adapt in real time. 

“At Digital Catapult, we are really excited to continue supporting the energy and utilities sector and accelerate innovation working alongside innovative energy networks, such SP Energy Networks, and partners who are looking to maximise the potential of advanced digital technologies to transform and future-proof the energy sector and achieve the UK’s net zero ambitions.” 

Graham Campbell, SP Energy Networks’ director of Processes and Technology, said: “The significant investment from the Strategic Innovation Fund shows the critical role innovation plays in us achieving net-zero. 

“The nine projects SP Energy Networks are leading on are a culmination of several months of collaboration across the industry to drive change.

“In 2021 we engaged with over 100 stakeholders, which has led to us now working with 27 partners including academics, industry experts, solutions providers and advanced digital technology innovation specialists, like Digital Catapult.

“These projects are being delivered by our industry, and we’re committed to working with parties of all sizes in the wider SIF portfolio, continuing to give opportunities to SMEs.”

Neil Kenward, director of Strategy and Decarbonisation at Ofgem, said: “The only way we can reduce our vulnerability to volatile and high gas prices is to focus on generating cheaper, cleaner power here at home.

“Ofgem is committed to achieving net-zero rapidly and at lowest cost, to deliver real net benefits to network companies, energy users and consumers.

“That is why we are delighted to support innovative projects like this one through our Strategic Innovation Fund.”

Image: Al Orfali/Shutterstock

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