Oxfordshire’s preparations for a net zero future supported with innovative new technology

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) has now installed over 80 low-voltage monitors throughout Oxfordshire. The monitors will alert SSEN to changing levels of demand in real time and assist in targeting investment on the road to net zero.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has forecast that by 2050 demand on electricity networks could treble as the UK moves toward its net zero carbon emissions future. Project Local Energy Oxfordshire (LEO), an innovative multi-million-pound smart grid trial, is working to understand how communities can play an active role in this journey.

Through its smart grid trials, Project LEO is helping prepare for a shift in the electricity system, from one where energy is only consumed to one where it can be produced, stored, balanced and sold back to the system. The use of low-voltage monitors support project LEO by providing live feedback and data on changes to demand and supply in the electricity system, such as from the implementation of low carbon technologies.

Previous monitoring systems provided only basic information, such as the highs and lows of voltage over a period, and required engineers to visit the substation to take load readings. The live data provided by the new monitors, however, helps us see up-to-date changes in demand and supply across the system, which can then be used for establishing baselines for the implementation and adoption of new technologies, such as electric vehicles and heat pumps.

SSEN’s recent Distribution Future Energy Scenario report forecasted Oxford will have over 71,000 electric vehicles, 58,000 heat pumps and 63MW of solar PV capacity by 2050. With low-voltage monitors in place, this forecasted growth and changing energy demands can be better and more efficiently accommodated.

The low-voltage monitors help in protecting the network and hardware connected to it, bringing greater network resiliency and cost savings for bill payers. The ability to see live changes in demand also enables quicker response times to demand changes, providing more opportunities for flexibility and potentially delaying or avoiding traditional network reinforcement.  Previous trials with low-voltage monitors on SSEN’s network resulted in a 70% reduction in cost.

Craig Rankin, SSEN’s Head of Region for Ridgeway said:

“The installation of the low-voltage monitors providesan opportunity for us to see real-time changes in demand and supply on the electricity network. The new monitors will provide us with extensive and detailed live data that will support our innovative smart grid trials as part of Project LEO and in targeting future investment on the road to net zero.

“With the uptake of low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles set to significantly increase in the future, the data provided by these new monitors will play a key role in helping us understand and respond to changes in demand and by provide more opportunities for a smarter and more flexible electricity system.”

A total of 81 low-voltage monitors have been installed so far throughout Oxfordshire, with an additional 19 targeted.