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The Social Life of Smart Grids Stephen Potter Design Innovation Group The Open University
Transition in the UK energy sector • The UK’s 2011 Carbon Plan focuses on new low carbon electricity generating capacity • Grid capacity is a big issue if decarbonised (or even low carbon) electricity is to provide for home heating and transport as well as growth in existing uses • Grid extension and reinforcement is expensive (£ 15 billion to 2021) and could be inefficient Photos: Western Power Distribution
• So ‘Smart Grids’ are about having a better managed network • One of the aims of Smart Grids is to understand manage decentralised systems involving distributed production • This is seen as a critical part of the transition to a costeffective and sustainable system of electricity production, transmission and consumption
Low Carbon Network Fund • The Future Networks Programme with the Low Carbon Network Fund (LCNF) supports smart grid implementation trials to enable industry learning – Western Power Distribution (WPD) is one of the UK power distribution network operators participating in this programme • The OU team is part of the WPD Project FALCON – (Flexible And Low Carbon Optimised Networks) • This presentation draws upon an analysis of LCNF projects to inform knowledge dissemination in FALCON – For details see www. lowcarbonuk. com and OU podcast at http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=NHx. Jy. Iuk. Rl. Q&feature=youtu. be
Supply-side skills • District Network Operators (DNOs) are rooted in the function of transmitting electricity from generators to users • They have no need to have strong interactions with consumers (retail companies do that – industry structure) • They have a socio-technical regime built around a supply function for an exogenously-determined demand • This is a system of professional expertise, organisational structures, relationships with contractors, regulatory frameworks, practices and skills etc.
Demand-side skills • Emerging Smart Grid designs for network management involve: – Engaging with new producers (CHP, micro-generators, commercial back-up contracts etc. ) – Engaging with users to manage demand – chopping peaks (commercial/domestic) – A context in which consumers are also producers – ‘prosumers’ • The traditionally supply and engineering solution-oriented culture of DNOs finds this difficult to relate to.
Smart Grid ways of doing… • There much emphasis given to the technical elements of smart grid designs like network cables, control/ monitoring equipment, Wi. Fi communications and energy storage systems • This is central to smart grid approaches and involves skills, practices and ways of working with which the DNOs are familiar • Little attention is given to the changes needed in practices and skills as a result of greater user interaction • But the industry is becoming aware of this need
Technical and institutional innovation • Backlash against smart meters in USA seen as a warning (‘Spy and Fry’) • Technical innovation usually requires organisational innovation as well • There are dangers in trying to implement Smart Grid designs within current culture and practices • Simply retaining existing approaches and introducing technologies and pricing systems to cut peak load has been very problematic
PV impact on Suburban networks Project So. La BRISTOL 33 k. V Lincolnshire Low Carbon Hub Future Networks Programme 11 k. V Project FALCON Networks LV Network Templates Customer Performance Demonstrating alternative investment strategies to facilitate the UK’s Low Carbon Transition Testing innovative solutions to make it simple for customers to connect Low Carbon Technologies Interconnect WPD + National Grid Systems Seasonal Generation Deployment Developing new operational practices and identifying service improvement opportunities Stakeholder Engagement and Knowledge Management Community Smart Grid – Smart Hooky Early learning from LV estate PV cluster Voltage Control Demonstration Project Network Management on Isles of Scilly Tier 1: smaller projects Tier 2: larger strategic projects
Exploring Smart Grids • A preliminary exploration of three LCNF Smart Grid projects: – – – The Low Carbon Hub in Lincolnshire The SOLA project in Bristol Smart Hookie in Hook Norton Lincolnshire Hook Norton Bristol
The Low Carbon Hub project in Lincolnshire • The Lincolnshire coast is good for the development of onshore and offshore wind-farms • See: http: //www. westernpowerinnovation. co. uk/Lincolnshire-Low-Carbon. Hub. aspx • This £ 3 m project was for offshore wind farms to have a new 4. 5 km OHL connection to the distribution network to create the active ring network. • Was treated as a technical project – contracts prepared and planning permission sought for new works
Technical response to a social problem • However, local opposition to wind farms in the region spilled over and planning permission refused • Response was to find ways to circumvent the opposition through technical means • E. g. Utilising existing circuits and existing powerline structuresfor optical fibres. • Performance poorer • Still to be implement – 3 years late • Has led to a practice of avoiding planning permission by technologies (e. g. using pole heights that do not need planning permission etc. )
Project So. La in Bristol • This project is about residents optimising power from solar PV • Explores in-home battery storage and energy storage in hot water to optimise PV for the user • It also involved installing a DC network homes (AC to DC converters are inefficient) • Users are not the usual PV cognoscenti • See http: //www. westernpowerinnovation. co. uk/So-La-Bristol. aspx
The unusual partnership • Western Power Distribution (WPD) identified a number of project partners: Bristol City Council, Siemens and the University of Bath • Additionally, WPD included a local media centre (Knowle West Media Centre) • The Knowle West Media Centre had the skills, understanding and status to engage domestic participants in the project
• Smart Node and data Hub on four substations monitoring home energy – All the technical features that led to big protests in the USA • But has had massive community support • WPD works with Hook Norton Low Carbon Limited - a Community Benefit Society, set up by residents • WPD took ‘back room’ technical deliverer role • See Smart Hooky page at http: //www. hn-lc. org. uk/what-weredoing/smart-hooky and Hook Norton Low Carbon at www. hnlc. org. uk
User Assurance and ‘buy-in’ • Hook Norton Community Society was the public interface • Even the brewery produced a special Smart Hookie ale!! • Hook Norton Low Carbon website: “This new and innovative project will allow you to view your data on a web portal and compare it with the highest, lowest and average usage across the village for similar types of properties and number of people in the house. This will help you assess whether you can save money and reduce your electricity consumption. Only you will be able to view and access your data and your personal information is protected. ”
Some insights and issues • Smart Grids require new ways of organising production and consumption, and in the relationship between the two – Not just new technologies but new relationships and partnerships – Having knowledge about technologies alone is not enough • The partnerships are different to the traditional contracting procurement relationships of DNOs • They are about devolving control – but DNOs are used to being in control
Alternative responses… • The default response can be to seek a technical way to circumvent user/social issues - To try to design out or reduce the role of the consumer - This is to implement Smart Grids within current industry regime • Alternatively, to develop partnerships with organisations that have engagement skills – this works well • DNOs may seek to internalise such skills or could move to developing the ability to identify and manage partnership working • The latter results in relying on partners for performance – Whereas DNOs have previously had high level of control
Mainstreaming experience • The engagement with ‘unusual’ partners has worked, but could be difficult to scale up beyond the LCNF trials • Issues of how to get benefits through internalising into DNO systems is starting to be discussed • Mass data systems have been implemented elsewhere to engage and empower users (as in internet and service -oriented companies) • The danger is if DNOs use mass data systems in Smart Grids in the same controlling way as in the past – that led to USA problem.
Emerging Issues • Overall new partnerships and relationships with new industry actors, consumers and ‘prosumers’ will need to be part of a Smart Grid future • We are in a fluid period exploring such new configurations • Even successful trail examples may not be viable for mainstreaming – but crucial to identify what’s needed • But ways of working, practices and comprehension of issues will need to change • OU seeking to develop a Social Life of Smart Grids network to research and explore this issue.
Thoughts, questions and observations? Methods to explore issues? How DNOs might develop new approaches? Stephen. [email protected] ac. uk