Digital communications upgrade will support adoption of increased number of EVs connecting to energy network

New digital communications systems installed by UK Power Networks will support electricity network resilience and also enable the DNO (distribution network operator) to connect more smart flexibility services and electric vehicles to its network in the future.

UKPN has upgraded digital communications across 16,000 electricity substations to enhance network visibility and reliability, while preparing for a future with more smart connections and flexibility services.

Engineers have rolled out new 4G mobile network routers which enable remote communications and control of electricity substations across the South East and East of England to maintain reliable supplies for millions of homes and businesses.

The new infrastructure maintains modern communications used by automatic power restoration systems and allows engineers to remotely control local network equipment. The routers send signals between network control systems and 11,000-volt secondary substations, to restore customers’ power supplies quickly in the event of a fault.

Barry Hatton, director of asset management at UK Power Networks, said: “This is a great example of how we are engineering infrastructure for now and the future.

“Meeting the Net Zero challenge needs collaboration across many skillsets, departments and partners and this project is a great example of that. We have taken an innovative approach to introduce new technology that maintains visibility and control for our substations while paving the way for more low carbon technologies connecting to our networks, such as electric vehicles. We have readied 16,000 sites where we can deploy smart approaches more easily meaning more electric vehicles (EVs) can be accommodated at a lower overall cost.”

UK Power Networks trained 78 employees in new skills to support the roll-out, enabling engineers with basic computer knowledge to replace the equipment, without specialist SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) engineering skills.

Steve Slim, managing director of Cherry & White, which provided the network routers, said: “We were delighted to provide the communications technology that will continue to support fast, resilient and secure wireless connectivity for digital communications across UK Power Networks regions, while enabling Britain’s biggest network operator to prepare for the future.

“Delivering these systems supports the reliable operation of UK Power Networks’ electricity system for millions of homes and businesses, ensuring the network continues to perform at its best.”

Image courtesy of UK Power Networks.

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