New regional scheme to boost central south England’s renewable energy potential

An initiative designed to unlock the potential of smaller, regionally-connected power resources is being developed on Great Britain’s south coast by National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), National Grid Electricity Transmission (ET) and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN).

Through its regional development programme (RDP), the ESO is working with National Grid ET and SSEN – the electricity distributor for south central England – on a way to more efficiently manage the growing volume of distributed energy resources (DER) in the region, such as small and medium-sized wind and solar farms.

DERs are connected and provide power to regional power networks rather than to Great Britain’s main transmission system, improving the flexibility of the grid and its ability to draw on energy resources beyond the large centralised power stations.

The new south coast initiative will harness DERs’ potential still further, enabling them to play an important role should transmission network conditions become particularly challenging – for example around the time of a fault on the network.

We’ll be able to connect greater volumes of zero carbon generation, maximising the efficiency and capacity of existing networks and ultimately reducing costs for consumers.

By introducing a system called Active Network Management (ANM) onto south coast regional energy networks, National Grid ESO, National Grid ET and SSEN are enabling distributed generators in the area to continue providing power to the grid during difficult system conditions, when previously they might have been restricted off in anticipation of a fault or to avoid overloading the system.

ANM systems offer vast improvements against traditional ‘intertrip’ systems, which only enabled on or off settings for connected generators when faced with adverse network conditions.

Under ANM control, multiple DERs on the south coast network can potentially continue to generate power within controllable limits, monitored and adjusted in real time to meet demand, and – importantly – reducing the need for generation to be completely curtailed.

The initiative will benefit a region which has already seen significant growth in DER, encouraging new connections to SSEN’s network and making sure as much generation as possible can be maintained according to the system conditions.

Since renewable energy makes up a significant volume of today’s DER connections, the latest regional development programme initiative also marks another step towards ESO’s ambition of being able to operate the electricity system carbon-free by 2025.

Julian Leslie, National Grid ESO’s head of networks, said:

“Regional development programmes like this are providing a great way to develop closer ways of working with other network organisations. Through ESO’s and National Grid ET’s work with SSEN, we’ll be able to connect greater volumes of zero carbon generation, maximising the efficiency and capacity of existing networks and ultimately reducing costs for consumers. It’s also another way we’re working with industry to help Great Britain on the path to net zero.”

Stewart Reid, head of future networks at Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks, said:

“It is great to see Active Network Management being applied at scale in the South of England and SSEN are proud to be working with NGESO on this RDP. The concept of ANM enabled ‘smart-grids’ originated in Orkney, about as far as you can get from these latest installations, shows how the combination of renewables and smart network management techniques can help the UK meet its Net Zero goals.”

For further information on the ESO's portfolio of regional development programmes, click here.