‘Virtual sensing network’ aims to unlock 70MW of electricity capacity

‘Virtual sensing network’ aims to unlock 70MW of electricity capacity

UK Power Networks (UKPN) is using a £2m machine-learning tool to create what it describes as a “Matrix-like” simulation of the South East’s electricity network.


The electricity distributor’s Envision project is simulating how power is flowing through its networks across London, the south and south-east of England.


Low carbon technologies


Using this data-led approach providing better visibility of everything that is happening across hundreds of thousands of miles of network, the company will be able to run the network more efficiently and safely allow more low carbon technologies like heat pumps and electric vehicle (EV) chargers to connect.


According to UKPN, experts forecast Envision could release almost 70MW of electricity capacity by 2028, creating more space for EV chargers or low carbon heat pumps. This means engineers won’t need to physically upgrade the network to release capacity, leading to significant cost and time savings: up to £4m in total over the next five years.


Connecting more electric car chargers and electric heat pumps is critical to tackling the climate crisis and reaching the UK’s net-zero carbon emissions target by 2050. UKPN claims it currently serves more than 150,000 electric cars and 20,000 heat pumps in the areas served but analysis forecasts there will be some 2.6 million electric vehicles and 712,000 heat pumps by 2030.

“The aim of the Envision model is to generate a ‘virtual sensing network’ that uses advanced data capabilities and machine learning to simulate the behaviour of the network at scale, accurately estimating changing network load profiles”

These need ‘space’ on the electricity network so the network operator reports “quickly and efficiently” unlocking more capacity is a vital part of its strategy.


“Our customers rightly expect us to do everything we can to make the switch to electric cars and low carbon heating as affordable as possible. Through Envision, we’re thinking outside the box and re-imagining traditional ways of working, to make it happen,” said Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks.

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