UKPN launches £6.4m blueprint to boost power supplies using new tech

The power network will use innovative solutions such as AI to improve supply reliability

UKPN launches £6.4m blueprint to boost power supplies using new tech

UK Power Networks has launched a £6.4 million blueprint to use cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence and smart data, to deliver the “most reliable power supplies ever” across London, the South and East of England.

The network operator – which distributes power to 8.3 million homes and businesses – is starting a portfolio of 11 projects to trial new uses for AI, test new technologies, and provide operational engineers with new equipment to take its service to the next level.

These new projects will build on UKPN’s continued efforts to reduce the frequency and duration of power cuts. From 2011-19 the network operator almost halved the number of power cuts, meaning people only experience a power cut once every three years, on average. Supplies are 99.9% reliable.

The projects all test innovative technologies, to either predict power cuts before they happen or give engineers more information about faults when they happen – so they can fix problems quicker. They include:

  • Installing 16 fault anticipation devices at seven electricity substations in Suffolk, Sussex Kent and London. The devices detect, qualify and alert in real time electrical disturbances on overhead lines and underground cables. This alerts engineers to a potential fault so they can get a head start and fix problems proactively.
  • Using software built with the British Geological Survey and the Met Office that factors in rainfall, cable density and soil characteristics to create a heat map of where faults could arise a few days into the future. This will allow engineers to prepare and react to faults more quickly.
  • Testing new fault passage indicators which automatically communicate to engineers where an electrical circuit might be damaged or obstructed, for example by fallen branches during a storm. It could mean engineers can locate a damage site 80% quicker without physically walking lines.
  • Trialling a new smart data algorithm in the MILES project, running to 2023. The system uses computer software connected to a series of sensors to show engineers a fault location within just a few metres.

Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UKPN said:  “It’s critical we fund research and develop tools for our Net Zero carbon future, but we’re also determined to deliver benefits for our customers here and now. People rightly expect us to lead the way in reliability, safety and customer service at the lowest possible cost, and that’s just what we’re aiming to do with these projects.”

UKPN’s innovation projects are primarily funded by energy regulator Ofgem’s Network Innovation Competition, and Network Innovation Allowance.


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