SMPnet's Visionary Response to Ofgem's Consultations: Enabling a Resilient, Sustainable Future

At SMPnet, we are working together with the changes happening in our industry.

At SMPnet, we are working together with the changes happening in our industry. We recently responded to Ofgem's consultation about the future of energy access and local energy management. These talks are important - The Future of Distributed Flexibility and The Future of Local Energy Institutions and Governance. These dialogues are crucial, shaping the contours of a flex-centred energy system built for a sustainable future. We hope that these discussions will continue and that actions will continue taking place.

Shaping the Governance of Local Energy Institutions

In our response to Ofgem's consultation, we highlighted our belief in System Operators' (SOs) ability to manage their networks in real-time effectively. This proficiency is crucial as we see networks decarbonising, and SOs are poised to continue in this essential role.

However, the shift from small-scale innovation trials to the standard deployment of proven technologies is only possible if the governance framework supports SOs in harnessing the potential of these technologies. With such a framework, we can truly revolutionise the energy landscape.

Building a Flex-Centred Energy System

Our response highlighted that distributed flexibility is crucial for a resilient and cost-effective transition to net zero. At the same time, efforts to align policy and regulatory frameworks to the potential of proven technologies are essential. To capture the full value of distributed flexibility, a holistic approach shall be set out that integrates flexibility markets with the full suite network optimisation tools and enablers, with digital substations at its core. Projects like UKPN's Constellation and National Grid ESO's Distributed ReStart can cost-effectively manner cost-effectively drive network decarbonisation and resilience. It is, however, crucial to shift beyond small-scale innovation trials towards business-as-usual deployment.

Scaling Up Pockets of Excellence

Ofgem acknowledges the progress made in leveraging distributed flexibility for energy system optimisation. Innovations such as National Grid ESO's Demand Flexibility Service and Distribution Flexibility Markets show promising strides in the right direction. Yet, we concur with Ofgem that these pockets of excellence must scale up for a coordinated, more significant impact.

Lessons from Abroad: The Spanish Case Study

Our collaboration with Iberdrola Group in Spain on a i-DE Redes Electricas Inteligentes project demonstrated the potential of rapid control of converter-fed assets within an electric cycle. The ability to synchronise a power island back to the main grid without a shutdown or reliance on fossil fuel generators is transformative; projects such as Distributed ReStart would equally benefit from the technological features showcased in the Spanish case. Regulatory environments should adapt to allow for such innovation trials to scale.

Envisioning Integrated and Optimised Systems

For an accessible, coordinated, and trusted market for distributed flexibility, integration with network optimisation tools and digital substations is crucial. These elements will provide visibility, control, and communication across the system. We envision digital substations as key to understanding real-time network activity and identifying operational issues, thus paving the way for a flex-centred, net-zero energy system.

The Necessity of a Common Energy Digital Infrastructure

An efficient, scalable, and flexible common energy digital infrastructure is essential for real-time data exchanges and secure data protection. Adhering to global standards and protocols would ensure interoperability and seamless integration of new technologies.

An Evolving Vision for the Energy Landscape

A clear and adaptive vision can accelerate the development of a cohesive suite of network optimisation tools. This approach will set the trajectory for achieving integrated and optimised systems and unlock distribution flexibility.

In response to Ofgem's questions, we propose that a common digital energy infrastructure should ideally be in place a decade before the UK's 2035 net-zero electricity system target. This infrastructure should build upon existing technologies, unlocking distribution flexibility at scale.

As we continue to engage in these important conversations with regulators like Ofgem, we remain committed to playing our part in the energy transition, striving for a greener, more resilient, and smarter future.

The Omega Platform: A Game-Changer for Energy Systems

Integral to our vision is the Omega platform, our proprietary technology that exemplifies the future of energy systems. Omega unveils a suite of benefits designed to revolutionise energy management when installed at distribution network primary and secondary substations.

  1. Real-time Visibility: SMPnet's technological framework Omega offers near real-time network visibility and activity monitoring, capturing data at an unprecedented granularity of less than 20ms. This shifts us from predictive models to a more accurate understanding of network activity, including constraints.
  2. Dynamic Control: Omega enables dynamic optimisation and control of substations. This feature ensures networks comply with capacity limits, exploit unutilised capacity, and negate the need to disconnect renewable generation.
  3. Seamless Integration: Omega ensures seamless integration across different systems and platforms through various communication standards and protocols. This capability facilitates data sharing and signal exchange, forging a connected, efficient network.
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SMPnet's technology: Omega framework for adaptive optimisation and real-time control for network and non-network assets

Omega facilitates a deeper understanding of network capacity limits and constraints by unlocking near real-time network visibility. It empowers network operators to optimise and control assets at a granular level, alleviating identified constraints and sharing relevant data with systems capable of initiating flexibility service requirements and dispatch.

Accelerating the Net-Zero Journey

As we journey towards a net-zero future, there will be instances where, e.g., total substation loading exceeds capacity limits. Hence, the ability to monitor and control across integrated networks becomes paramount. Technologies in place need to manage such constraints in real-time. Omega, being a super-set of software apps, introduces such a functionality among others – refer to the video below indicating how the innovative optimisation algorithm embedded in Omega alleviates congestion in a primary substation when the transformer capacity is exceeded:

Our governance framework should facilitate the deployment and integration of digital substations with wider systems. This will expedite the realisation of distribution flexibility and foster accessible, coordinated, and optimised markets that deliver consumer value.

SMPnet remains dedicated to its commitment to catalysing a sustainable energy transition. Our mission is to help utilities operate their networks more efficiently, enable value-based growth, and drive digital transformation. We eagerly look forward to further collaboration with the industry, co-creating a future where local energy governance is tailored for a resilient, sustainable world.

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