Power distribution networks

ITI Energy and a consortium involving Rolls-Royce, ScottishPower and the University of Strathclyde are to explore the development of new technology to actively manage power distribution networks.

The project has the potential to deliver an active network management system which allows more flexible and more cost-effective implementation of distributed generation and demand side management. This could also mitigate the need for expensive infrastructure upgrades and reduce capacity constraints in existing networks.

ITI Energy estimates that in Europe and the US by moving from large scale centralised power generation to smaller scale, more localised forms of generation will result in a potential market opportunity for new active network management technologies over the next 5-10 years of up to $300 million pa.

Electricity networks globally are facing a period of unprecedented change. Ageing assets, more localised distribution, and the need for improved security and quality of supply and increasing energy efficiency are forcing network operators and equipment suppliers to think differently about how they meet these demands. At a smaller scale, the complexity of “islanded networks”, such as electric ships or planes, requires similar “smart” network management technologies.

But this requires substantial amounts of capital and even the latest technologies have difficulty in dealing with intermittent renewable sources like wind and new technologies such as fuel cells. New technologies that can meet these demands have the potential to create significant impact globally.

“Worldwide, the electricity supply/demand paradigm is changing radically as assets age and reach full capacity, as renewable energy resources are incorporated into the system, and as demand side management becomes more and more important to conserve energy and to balance available electrical generation. This project, centred in Scotland, brings together electrical engineering experts from the business and research communities, and gives us an opening to develop active network management technologies that could solve the new equation and result in major global sales opportunities,” Chief Executive Officer of ITI Energy, Tony Amor said.

The R&D project will explore technology developments that are specifically targeting public distribution networks. If the initial phase demonstrates the potential to develop unique intellectual property the project could ultimately see ITI Energy investing in excess of £10m over the next 5-10 years in this area.

The agreement between the consortium allows for additional research and commercialisation partners to be added into the project as more in-depth detailed understanding of specific device solutions develop.