Transformation of the Top and Tail of Energy Networks

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Abstract

There are two very particular places in energy networks where existing network technology and infrastructure needs radical change to move us to a low carbon economy. At the Top of network, i.e. the very highest transmission voltages, the expected emergence of transcontinental energy exchange in Europe (and elsewhere) that is driven by exploitation of diversity in renewable sources and diversity in load requires radical innovation in technologies. Many of these proposed interconnectors will be submarine or underground cable and High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) must be used. Power ratings for the voltage source AC/DC converters for HVDC use are presently around 500 MW while the need is for links of up to 20 GW. A change of this magnitude requires radical innovation in technology. To focus our research in HVDC cable technology and power converters we have defined target ratings of 1 MV and 5 kA. The Tail of the network is the so-called last mile and behind the meter wiring into customer premises. More than half the capital cost of an electricity system is sunk in the last mile and cost and disruption barriers have made it resistant to change. Not only have recent changes in consumer electronics yet to impact network design, there are radical changes in future heat and transport services that need to be met. The challenge is to reengineer the way in which the last mile assets are used without changing the most expensive part: the cables and pipes in the ground. To get this right means starting with a fresh look at the energy services required and seeing what flexibility there is to meet the service expectation differently. A consortium of universities has been brought together to address this transformation of our energy networks. Several of the bid partners have had leading roles in Supergen consortia in the networks area but this consortium includes new partners whose expertise, especially in the power electronics field, is strongly indicated as game-changing. For the first time, the power electronics researchers in Warwick, Nottingham, Imperial and Strathclyde and the insulation materials groups in Manchester and Southampton are proposing to work together bringing developments of underpinning technologies to bear on network issues. These technology developments are folded into the energy network planning and operations work of Strathclyde, Manchester, Cardiff and Imperial. Birmingham brings energy economics expertise and Imperial expertise in energy policy and the social science of consumer acceptance. Several important industrial companies are engaged with this programme to form our scientific advisory board and to pick up and use results that emerge. These in clued network operators such as National Grid and Central Networks, equipment manufacturers such as Alstom Grid and Converteam and component manufacturers such as Dynnex and Dow Chemicals.Although the proposed project will address major challenges of technology, we recognise that transforming our energy networks is not merely a technical question. Members of the consortium already have links with civil servants and advisors in a number of administrations in the UK including DECC, the Scottish Government, WAG and NIE. These links allow us to understand the context in which energy policy is made. Consortium members have given advice to Ofgem on the Low Carbon Networks Fund, Parliamentary Select Committees and have been active in projects commissioned through the Energy Technologies Institute. Thus although the focus of your project is on a timescale of 20-40 years the results of our research will impact network development much earlier. Discussions to date with our partners in these organisations suggest a great deal of excitement about what work on the Energy Networks Grand Challenge can contribute.

Planned Impact

The programme of work is intended to provide breakthrough advances in key enabling technologies within the context of 2050 low carbon infrastructure requirements. There are two economic prizes at stake. A European SuperGrid is key to exploiting the renewable resources of the continent as a whole more efficiently than if seen as collections of national systems. The UK's position in this is strong as it could become a net exporter of electrical energy because of favourable wind and marine resources. The second gain is achieving electrification of private vehicles and building heating without an extremely expensive wholesale asset replacement of the last mile of network. Our engagement with network and system operators such as National Grid, Scottish Power and Central Networks over many years and in preparing this proposal means that we are confident of tackling real barriers to the development of low carbon networks. In several of these specialist technology areas the UK is also well placed to design, manufacture and supply. Semiconductor devices, packaging technology and power converters resulting from this project will contribute to improved infrastructure efficiency and flexibility. Direct beneficiaries include power electronic system manufacturers such as Alstom, drives manufacturers and device manufacturers such as Dynex. Such examples, together with the consortium's strong track record with TSB projects and KTPs, will ensure results are fully exploited. Research in innovative cables for large scale HVDC transmission will be disseminated to materials suppliers with a view to feeding development of new products for UK and European networks. Funding vehicles such as TSB Technology Programme will be used to support this. The team are experienced in this: Swingler is now applying results from AMPerES concerning the influence of polymer microstructure to develop routes to commercial exploitation with a polymer supplier and TSB. Opportunities will also be sought with partners to develop new services and monitoring products based on the optimisation of legacy cable utilisation. A critical societal objective for infrastructure investment will be minimising disruption caused by, eg, street works that might otherwise be the consequence of rapid growth of urban PV and electric vehicles. The research on legacy cable infrastructure brings significant value by minimising interference with urban life while at the same time continuing to maintain service. The cooperation of the strongest UK academic teams in power systems and power electronicss, all with excellent experimental facilities, will for the first time provide an exceptional basis for enhanced UK participation in EU FP7 and FP8 programmes. The project steering group will give focus to attracting EU gearing to the consortium. Together with the Network Hub this will stimulate UK academia and industry to attract more value from international activity. Our PhD programme will deliver the new skill sets required of future leaders. The research team will benefit from cross-training, and the skill set of these fifteen PhDs and ten RAs will be particularly valuable to the UK as infrastructure investments accelerate through the critical 2015-25 period. Furthermore, we intend to draw together wider infrastructure cooperation by working with and contributing to the anticipated Power Networks Hub and by reaching out to the nanomaterials and energy storage communities. The prospects for success will be enhanced through the team's established industrial engagement, academic partnership of materials, devices, plant and systems specialism and close association with ETI, IFI, & LCNF demonstration. Opportunities for exploitation will be pursued through licensing, spin-outs etc. The opportunities for further development of technology will be enhanced by the senior academics providing strateic input into EPSRC, TSB, etc whereby follow-on funds can be identifified in a timely fashion.
 
Description A large variety of findings across engineering, social science and economics were generated by this collaborative programme. Some are detailed in the HubNet Annual report of 2015 and all were summarised in a final brochure of outputs.
Exploitation Route Recommendations and policy advice has been provided to UK government (DECC / Ofgem) and EU bodies. Technical outcomes propagated through standards bodies and similar. Specific materials advances in semiconductors and high voltage insulators have been advanced through technology transfer activities
Sectors Energy

URL http://www.topandtail.org.uk/outcomes.html
 
Description Research findings used as inputs to technical broachers and engineering recommendations from Cigre working groups. Prof S Finney and F Page contributed to working group B4.34, G. Chaffey and Prof T. Green to B4.58 and Dr J Pilgrim to B1.35 and B1.50. The CGEN model used for combined electricity and gas network modelling was enhanced during the project with further operational analysis and network expansion planning, becoming CGEN+. It has been used in the National Needs Assessment (NNA) coordinated by the Institution of Civil Engineers, has been used with Warwick University to plan expansion of their campus heat network and used to support the National Infrastructure Commission.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Energy
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description CfD State-Aid Evidence
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Evidence sought and delivered on whether UK government's Electricity Market Reform and specifically the Contracts-For-Difference arrangements for nuclear new build comply with state-aid rules.
URL http://ec.europa.eu/competition/state_aid/studies_reports/green_staffell_en.pdf
 
Description International Energy Agency, Energy Efficient End-use equipment, 4E, Power Electronic Conversion Technology Annex PECTA
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact Overall Goal The overall goal of PECTA includes collecting and analysing information about new wide band gap (WBG) based power electronic devices, coordinating internationally acceptable approaches that promote WBG-based power electronics and developing greater understanding and action amongst governments and policy makers. Specific Goals (a) Collecting and analysing information on new WBG-based power electronics as energy efficient technology (b) Share expertise and pool resources on this energy efficient technology (also including e.g. hosting of open forums and building collaborative networks as well as gathering and ex-change information) (c) Coordinating internationally acceptable government approaches that promote WBG-based power electronics. (d) Developing greater understanding and promote government actions that encourage the use of WBG-based power electronics. (e) Accompanying and supporting international standardization public organizations (specifically IEC).
URL https://edna.iea-4e.org/
 
Description Response to Ofgem/BEIS call for evidence on energy system flexibility
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL http://www.ukerc.ac.uk/news/ukerc-response-to-beis-ofgem-call-for-evidence-on-a-smart-flexible-energ...
 
Description Condition Monitoring for Large Si IGBT Modules
Amount £200,306 (GBP)
Organisation Alstom 
Sector Private
Country France
Start 09/2017 
End 11/2018
 
Description Gas insulated lines for electrical power transport
Amount £15,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Government of Wales 
Department Welsh European Funding Office
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 06/2016 
End 07/2020
 
Description HOME-Offshore: Holistic Operation and Maintenance for Energy from Offshore Wind Farm
Amount £3,048,221 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P009743/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2016 
End 04/2020
 
Description High Current Module and Technologies Optimised for HVDC
Amount £1,016,809 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/L021579/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2014 
End 12/2018
 
Description IGBT Health Management
Amount ¥1,700,000 (CNY)
Organisation CRRC Corporation Limited 
Sector Private
Country China
Start 07/2016 
End 09/2017
 
Description Innovation in high voltage electrical insulation of electrical energy systems"
Amount £17,000 (GBP)
Organisation UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2012 
End 12/2014
 
Description LCE-05-2017 - Tools and technologies for coordination and integration of the European energy system
Amount € 4,000,000 (EUR)
Funding ID 774309 
Organisation European Commission H2020 
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 10/2017 
End 03/2021
 
Description Real-time Condition Monitoring and Prognostics technology of IGBT Modules for engineering application
Amount £243,388 (GBP)
Organisation CRRC Corporation Limited 
Sector Private
Country China
Start 06/2016 
End 12/2017
 
Description The National Grid Transco High Voltage Research Centre
Amount £225,000 (GBP)
Organisation National Grid Transco 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2011 
End 12/2013
 
Description Towards Enhanced HVDC Cable Systems
Amount £111,400 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/L021560/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
End 07/2018
 
Description Ultra-high voltage (>30KV) power devices through superior materials for HVDC transmission
Amount £726,523 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/P017363/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2017 
End 06/2020
 
Description Underpinning Power Electronics switch optimisation Theme
Amount £1,194,288 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/R00448X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2020
 
Description Wireless Power Transfer
Amount £365,000 (GBP)
Organisation Drayson Wireless 
Sector Private
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2014 
End 04/2016
 
Title CGEN and CGEN+ 
Description The CGEN and CGEN+ models help network companies and policy makers better understand the complexities and technical implications of interactions between multi-vector energy systems at the transmission level alongside the potential costs and policy strategies.An upgraded model, CGEN+, now includes transmission network expansion planning. In the planning time frame, the model determines the reinforcement of both the gas and electricity transmission networks in parallel (e.g. new gas pipes and electricity transmission capacity) while establishing the optimal location of new generation plants in the system. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact Prof Jianzhong Wu and his team working in Top and Tail and HubNet created modelling environments for multi-vector energy systems (CGEN and CGEN+) which enabled analysis of performance and planning of future systems and were detailed as a case study for the 2016 Supergen review. The new impact is a £24M demonstration project, FLEXIS, to trial the technologies developed. The demo area is within the Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council area covering a population of 140,000 people. The area has a variety of distributed generation that includes approximately 690 MW of operational onshore wind farms, solar photovoltaics, biomass and gas turbines. A further 2,175 MW of distributed generation is either under construction or consented. This demonstration will investigate the synergies between well-established electricity and gas networks and optional district heating networks, and will also investigate effective business cases between Tata (the largest energy consumer) and the surrounding communities to share/trade electricity/gas/heat and capitalise on the flexibilities generated from such synergies through enhanced grid service provision. 
 
Title Decentralised Control for Soft Open Points 
Description A suite of algorithms and a supervisory control were created for dispatching the real and reactive power of a liar of back-to-back power converter (or a three way connection) so as the balance power flow or correct voltage error among a group of feeders to substations in a low voltage (400V) distribution network. The algorithms are decentralised that they use local measurements predominantly supplemented with a few remote measurements communicated at low bandwidth. 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The FUN-LV project run by UK Power Networks, with Imperial College as a partner, was a field trial of power electronics solutions to releasing capacity in low voltage networks. The project stemmed from work conducted by Prof Tim Green in Top and Tail and before that, FlexNet. It was used as an impact case study in last year's Supergen review. Since then the trial has reached a successful conclusion and gone on to win various awards including the Institute of Engineering Technology (IET) "Power Innovation Award in 2016" and Business Green "Green IT Project of the Year 2017" (having previously won a Utility Week Industry Innovation Award in 2015). 
 
Description Keynote in Beihai 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Keynote Speech entitled "Robust Analysis of Smart Distribution Networks" in 2nd International symposium on smart grid methods, tools and technologies, Weihai, China, 4-7 July, 2017
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description UNiLAB Panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Chair of Panel "UNiLAB of Distributed Energy and Microgrids" in International Symposium of Renewable Energy Integration through Mini/Microgrids (REM), Cardiff, UK, 19th Oct, 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description UNiLAB panel in Beijing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Chair of Round Table "Applied Energy UNiLAB" in 2017 China International Electrical and Energy Conference, Beijing, China, 26th Oct, 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Urban Innovation in Brazil Partnership Building Visit 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Invited by the InnovateUK and Scottish Power Energy Networks, joined the "Urban Innovation in Brazil Partnership Building Visit" organized by Newton Fund and KTN, and as one of the 14 UK delegated, visited Sao Paulo and Belo Horizonte during 21st - 27th Jan 17
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017