Northern Powergrid invests £11.4m to smarten grid

  • April 19, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

UK electricity provider Northern Powergrid is investing £11.4m in enhancing its remote network management to deliver a smarter power grid.

The company is responsible for the electricity network that powers everyday life for eight million people across north-east England, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire.

The investment is a part of Northern Powergrid’s ongoing work at the forefront of net zero development and green growth across the region.

Following a procurement process, the network operator has awarded utility network and wireless telecommunications specialist EMR Integrated a £11.4m contract to upgrade its secondary scada system to an IP communications platform across 7500 distribution substations.

Headquartered in Ireland with its UK office in Manchester, EMR has established a footprint in the UK utility market, working with providers such as SSE, Greencoat UK Wind, Greater Gabbard Ofto, Northern Ireland Water, Severn Trent Water and Affinity Water.

This project is a part of Northern Powergrid’s wider £83m smart grid enabler programme, which forms the backbone to delivering a more actively managed electricity distribution system to support future energy need as it brings more clean, renewable generation online in the UK.

The investment will enable Northern Powergrid to activate enhanced automation across thousands of substations, centralise control of its remote infrastructure and build a better understanding of electricity consumption patterns across the grid to provide a responsive service that meets users’ needs.

As the region decarbonises and users become increasingly dependent on electricity to power their lives and low carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles and solar panels, the investment will provide a platform to roll out smart, cost-effective systems and provide real-time network operation data to inform future management of the region’s power network.

“This project will enhance network flexibility and build more digital capability to meet our customers’ needs now and in the future,” said Mark Nicholson, Northern Powergrid’s head of smart grids. “It will help facilitate our transition to a distribution system operator that actively manages varying generation and demands across our grid as our customers become more dependent on electricity to power their lights, heating and transport. The ability to remotely operate more of our assets and improve network visibility through collection of real-time monitoring data will help us provide better services to our customers. We can use the IP network to remotely troubleshoot and manage devices across the air, which reduces infrastructure management costs and enables us to be responsive to an active network and the needs of our customers.”

Alan Feenan, sales director with EMR, added: “This is an exciting contract for EMR to be part of. The project design offers Northern Powergrid a secure, responsive and fully compliant technical solution, while delivering a robust and easy to manage platform for Northern Powergrid’s team of engineers. Our approach to designing, building and supporting utility networks is viewed by many utility providers as a critical element of their digital transformation efforts and organisations such as Northern Powergrid have responded positively, viewing EMR as a safe pair of hands.”

And Paul Green, project manager for Northern Powergrid, said: “The project rollout is underway and due for completion by March 2023. We’re working closely with the team at EMR to ensure we have the support we need to deliver our plans. Where we have technical challenges, we work together to overcome them, and the project team is very responsive which is important as we make this investment a reality for our customers.”