SSEN trials innovative technology to predict and prevent power cuts

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is trialling innovative technology across central southern England to ‘predict’ and prevent power cuts.

SSEN, which is responsible for maintaining the electricity distribution networks for over 3.1 million homes and businesses in its south patch, will test the Distribution Fault Anticipation (DFA) technology for a twelve-month period to February 2022; working in partnership with UK Power Networks, Lord Consulting in New Zealand, Nortech Management Limited and Energy Innovation Centre, funded by Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance. 

Distribution Fault Anticipation (DFA) systems work by using high levels of sampling rates to identify network faults before they interrupt customers’ power supplies. The DFA-Plus device monitors voltage and current on electricity circuits to detect the smallest of disturbances - which traditional network protection systems may miss – and then matches any abnormal waveforms with a catalogue of data to identify the most likely causes of the anomaly. 

SSEN will begin the process of installing the DFA technology in its substations across central southern England in January and February this year; gradually rolling out the programme over the next twelve months to enable up to 15 individual units to be installed on its network serving homes and businesses across areas including Berkshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and West London. Each unit, which is roughly the size of a small games console, has the capability to continuously monitor several kilometres of network, and therefore the supply to thousands of customers, on both the 11kV and 33kV electricity infrastructure. 

George Simopoulos, SSEN’s Innovation Project Manager said: “SSEN embraces the use of cutting-edge technology on our network that can improve both the service and power supply we provide to our customers, and the efficient and safe working practices of our engineers. Systems such as these can also assist us in reducing our impact on the environment by helping pinpoint potential faults, and thereby cutting down on the need to inspect large areas of overhead or underground cabling. 

“The ability to monitor our network - and therefore pre-empt potential power cuts – greatly reduces the risk of unplanned outages, enables us to act quickly when issues are highlighted through the DFA system and reassures our customers that we are proactively using innovative systems to maximise the resilience of their power supply. 

“Taking part in this programme and sharing knowledge with our partners in this year-long trial is a great example of collaborative working to benefit many millions of homes and businesses in southern England.” 

Trevor Lord, LORD Consulting’s director, said: “It has been both our pride and pleasure to participate in the application of the DFA technology on Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks’ central southern England infrastructure.” 

Chino Atako, senior asset engineer at UK Power Networks, said: “The advantage of using these units is that we now have more eyes on the network to see things we wouldn’t normally be able to see - which could enable a quicker, cheaper, more proactive approach to fault location and repairs. 

“Traditionally, repairs are carried out after a fault which has led to customers losing supplies, but such events are preceded by pre-fault events we cannot usually see. If we could identify these, we can further increase the reliability and efficiency of our network and cut the cost of repairs.” 

The DFA trial runs until February 2022 when SSEN will collaborate and share information with the scheme’s partners to validate the approach that faults can be pre-empted by monitoring high voltage feeders, in real time at very high sample rates.