Working ‘smart’ to deliver net zero

The UK faces a huge challenge to deliver Net Zero fast, and utility firms play a critical role in making that transition possible while keeping energy bills down. At UK Power Networks, technology experts are working on a range of ‘smart’ innovations so that more people can connect low carbon technologies like electric vehicle chargers and heat pumps. Peter Lang, senior technology transfer engineer reveals one clever project which will help make sure nobody is left behind in the energy transition. 

In a leafy residential street in Coulsdon, south London, few would notice the black box sitting just next to the footpath. It’s been there a while, unobtrusive and just part of the street furniture to help deliver power from the grid to local doorsteps.

But inside the box on Fryston Avenue, is a new device which could help change the face of the domestic drive towards Net Zero. It’s the first ‘phase switch system’ in the country, soon to be replicated at other test locations including Walthamstow and Richmond Park.

In Fryston Avenue several of our customers already have EV chargepoints supplied by the same underground electricity cable. Most homes are supplied with electricity through one of three cables (called ‘phases’) that make up local electricity networks. 

Our new device works by automatically balancing the electrical load between these different cables – and moving the load to another cable if needed. 
We are testing how each cable can take a different share, to help customers connect more chargers or heat pumps and could avoid the need to dig up the streets to install extra cables.  

We forecast up to 2.7 million electric vehicles and 300,000 heat pumps will be connected across London, the East and South East by 2028. The Government’s recent Heat and Buildings Strategy recently announced a new Boiler Upgrade Scheme to support households who want to switch to heat pumps with £5,000 grants, and we aredelivering £66 million investment across 86 locations, to deliver low carbon energy projects that will help achieve the Government’s Ten Point Plan towards Net Zero by 2050. 

Our approach is to mainly use smart and flexible approaches to maximise use of the existing electricity network, rather than building costly new substations and cabling in the traditional way. This will make sure we can help deliver Net Zero at the lowest possible cost for consumers.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to reaching Net Zero emissions, but this project is proving that we can build a toolbox of smart solutions to make sure our customers can connect quickly and easily when they are ready.

Low Carbon Electric which makes the phase switch system are delighted to see the technology being tested for the first time and I’ll leave the last word to their CEO Martin Caton who said: “It has offered exciting results, so we’re looking forward to assessing the benefits.” 

Image courtesy of UK Power Networks

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