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Newsletters

    • Issue no 2

      CLASS is a £9 million project, funded by Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund which will run until September 2015. As part of the CLASS project we are trialling a range of innovative techniques to manage electricity consumption by controlling voltage.

      Our CLASS trials started earlier this year. In this second newsletter to our stakeholders, we tell you about our progress on the trials and our customer surveys. 

      CLASS solution live

      Early in spring 2014, we achieved a major milestone for the project when we completed testing and went ‘live’ with the CLASS technological solution. This is a suite of inter-connected technologies, some of which are installed on the electricity network, some in our control room and some in National Grid’s control room.

      Designing, developing and commissioning these technologies has been one of the biggest challenges for the project to date. However, the significant learning that we gain will help with the rollout of CLASS nationally, if the trials prove successful.

      CLASS trials update

      We believe that the innovative CLASS solution can enable us to make maximum use of our existing network assets, thus saving costs and carbon, and providing other benefits.

      To ascertain the extent to which this is the case, we are undertaking multiple trials of CLASS across a range of scenarios. This involves the application of the diverse CLASS functions at varying times of day, across diverse demand groups and different seasons. To date, we have completed two sets of seasonal surveys. The first in spring 2014, and more recently, the summer trials which we completed in early September 2014.

      Both set of trials proceeded as planned. Notably, the CLASS technologies responded and performed as expected and delivered the CLASS functions when instructed to do so. A vast array of network data were collected and passed to the University of Manchester for analysis.

      We also conducted customer surveys alongside the trials to assess whether customers notice any changes to their electricity supply when the CLASS functions are applied to the network.

      The findings from the customer surveys and the network data analysis will determine whether CLASS has been successful, and therefore whether it can be rolled out nationwide.

      Successful trial with National Grid

      As part of the CLASS project our network management system is linked with National Grid’s system so that data and voltage control instructions can be exchanged in real time between the two control centres. This is the first dual control link of its kind in Great Britain.

      We have now successfully completed our first set of CLASS trials with National Grid. This involved National Grid activating a 3% voltage reduction at a selected number of CLASS primary substations on our network. The trial was successful and resulted in the target voltage reduction being achieved.

      Customer survey update

      The results of our first wave of customer surveys are now available. We surveyed 184 of our customers over the summer to find out if they observed any changes in power quality and if this affected their perception of their electricity service. The results were compared to the results from our baseline survey which was carried out in May 2014.

      So far there has been no statistically significant change in the proportion of customers noticing a difference in the performance of their appliances.

      As part of the monitoring survey we used a test/control methodology to ensure there was no inflated reporting of changes as a result of being part of our CLASS trial panel. There were no significant differences between the test and control groups, reinforcing the fact that the CLASS trials have not adversely changed perceptions of power quality.

      As a further test, half of the control sample were notified about the tests in advance, while half were not, to see if those notified were sensitised to any changes. Again, there were no statistically significant differences between those notified and those not.

      The fact that the initial surveys are showing that customers are not observing any adverse effects on their quality of supply is good news for CLASS. However, we will not have the full picture until all the trials and surveys have been completed in April 2015.

      Customer survey key facts

      • Our CLASS survey participants own a whopping 41,794 appliances!
      • Approximately 3/5 of our 697 CLASS survey participants live in the Manchester region, 1/5 live in Lancashire and 1/5 in Cumbria
      • 92% of households are often at home at times of peak demand (4-7pm) which means they have the opportunity to notice any possible effects of CLASS
      • We have successfully recruited 696 CLASS customers to take part in our surveys: 496 domestic and 200 industrial and commercial which is a statistically robust and representative sample.
      • Customer surveys completed:
        • Baseline = 696 (496 domestic, 200 I&C).
        • Summer = 184 (142 domestic, 42 I&C)
        • Autumn (ongoing)  to date = 197 (129 domestic, 68 I&C).
      • In our summer season survey, 97% of customers surveyed were satisfied with their electricity supply.

      What’s next?

      Over the next few months we will be focusing on the following key activities:

      • Continuing with the trials (season two started in September)
      • Continuing to keep you informed on our progress
      • Interim analysis of network data will be published on our website in January 2015
      • Our next webinar in March 2015



      Find out more

      • For more information, to see our CLASS videos and to keep up-to-date with our findings please visit our website.
      • To watch our introductory CLASS webinar broadcast in June this year click here.
      • To find out more about the team delivering the CLASS project click here.
      • If you have a question about the CLASS project or are interested in attending any of our seminars or knowledge sharing events please contact us.
      • You can also text your question to 87070 - start your message with CLASS and then your name.
        All text messages will be charged at your standard network rate.
      • Our next newsletter will be published April 2015.
    • Issue no 1

      In this first issue of our newsletter, we provide an introduction to our project, Customer Load Active System Services (CLASS), and give an update on our progress to date. We hope you find it of interest.

      Background

      Electric car
      As we face the challenge of making the transition to minimise potential cost, disruption and carbon emissions, we need to develop smarter and more flexible ways of managing electricity networks. At Electricity North West we are leading a number of innovative projects, including the £9 million CLASS project funded by the Low Carbon Network Fund.   to a low carbon future and meeting government carbon reduction targets, demand for electricity in Great Britain is set to rise significantly. This will present new challenges to distribution network operators (DNOs) who will need to invest heavily in new network infrastructure to meet this increased demand. This would be a massively disruptive and carbon-intensive programme of work and would mean much higher bills for customers.

      What is CLASS?

      The aim of CLASS is to address some of the challenges faced by DNOs by trialling a low-cost innovative approach to managing electricity consumption using voltage control without customers noticing any adverse effects. 

      To allow voltage to be adjusted when required we will install smart voltage control in major substations linked to our control centre. This will automatically help stabilise network frequency and keep voltages at safe levels. An advanced network management system will link our control centre to National Grid control centre.

      The ability to manage peak demand in this way could provide us with a useful tool for accommodating increasing demand. It can be deployed on a national level and will make it easier to adopt low carbon technologies onto the electricity network such as wind and solar power. It would avoid or defer costly network reinforcement and therefore realise cost savings for customers.

      The project will run until September 2015.

      CLASS trials

      Who's involved To demonstrate the CLASS approach and to assess customers’ perceptions of its effects, we will run five trials on 60 primary substations during 2014. This represents 17% of our network and around 350,000 customers.
       
      • Trial 1: Voltage increment and decrement over one year 
      • Trial 2: Voltage decrement to achieve a demand response at times of system peak 
      • Trial 3: Voltage decrement to provide very fast frequency response 
      • Trial 4: Voltage decrement to provide a fast frequency response to the national electricity transmission system operator (NETSO)
      • Trial 5: Reactive power absorption to redress high network voltages
      • During the trials, we will monitor and analyse primary transformers and tap changers to understand whether CLASS has any effects on them.

      Click here to see more details about the trials including our selection methodology and how we identified our monitoring locations.

      Engaging with our stakeholders

      Engaging with stakeholders
      A key hypothesis of CLASS is that “customers
      within the trial areas will not see/observe/notice any adverse effects on their electricity supply when these innovative techniques are applied”. 
       

      To test this hypothesis we will carry out a range of customer surveys aligned with the trials to understand customer observations of any effects on their electricity supply.

      We will also actively engage with customers to raise awareness of the project and its drivers, including the challenges posed by increasing electricity demand. We will use informative and easily understood campaign material and ensure that our customers are kept up-to-date.

      The project will generate learning in a number of key areas which we will disseminate to our stakeholders using a variety of channels including our website, customer literature, our e-newsletter and social media. Click this link to see our customer engagement plan.

      Our partners

      Partner logosOur partners are the leading experts in their fields, either in research, technology or customer engagement. Below is a list of our project partners. To find out more about our partners and their roles on the CLASS project click here.

      • Siemens
      • GE Digital Energy
      • National Grid
      • Chiltern Power
      • Parsons Brinckerhoff
      • The University of Manchester
      • Impact Research

      What's next?

      PylonOver the next few months we will be focused on the following key activities:

      • Customer focus groups to help us formulate our communications to customers – from October 2013
      • LCN Fund annual conference, Brighton – November 2013
      • Design  of trials and test regime – November 2013
      • Install, commission and witness test distribution substation monitors – by end December 2013

      Keeping in touch

      Newspapers
      • For more information, to see our video and to keep up-to-date with our findings please visit our website.
      • Click this link to watch our introductory CLASS webinar covering the CLASS concept, objectives and high level approach.
      • To find out more about the team delivering the CLASS project click here.
      • If you have a question about the CLASS project or are interested in attending any of our seminars or knowledge sharing events please contact us.   
      • You can also text your question to 87070 - start your message with CLASS. All text messages will be charged at your standard network rate.
      • Click this link if you’d like to unsubscribe from our e-mail update.
      • Our next newsletter will be published in April 2014.