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23/11/12: £9 million smart grid funding win for North West

The North West’s power network operator, Electricity North West, is to trial a cutting edge technique to increase capacity in the local grid without building costly new infrastructure. Smart Grid

The company has won government funding for an ambitious £9m trial to help make sure that customers in the North West can get the power they need in the future.

At certain times during high demand, the network runs almost at capacity, but to increase capacity by building more lines could cost billions. Instead, Electricity North West will trial slightly reducing the voltage it delivers to thousands of homes and businesses in the region when demand is at its peak.

The change will be unnoticeable to customers but could help avoid millions of pounds of investment and therefore keep bills lower.

Steve Johnson, CEO of Electricity North West, said: “This project aims to get more out of what’s already built by bringing together new technology developed by our engineers and partners to transform the way distribution companies like us operate networks.

“This innovative approach will help us get the most from the infrastructure we already have, with customers still getting the power they need. Turning the voltage down by 1% for example, would mean a kettle could take a few more seconds to boil, but it would also mean that customers won’t end up paying for costly new lines.”

The demand for electricity could double by 2050 as the UK moves towards cleaner energy and reduces its reliance on fossil fuels.

It’s estimated that the cost of upgrading the UK electricity network by building more infrastructure to meet future demand could be as much as £1.8 billion by 2025 just in the North West, and £15 billion across Great Britain – the equivalent of almost £600 for every household.

Electricity North West was awarded the funding for the Customer Load Active System Services (CLASS) project following a bid to Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund.

It will work on the project with partners including Siemens, GE Digital Energy, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Chiltern Power, National Grid, Impact Research and The University of Manchester.

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