Local grid operators ‘must be more flexible to meet demand’

Local electricity network operators must be more flexible when responding to requests for connections. That’s according to Ofgem, which states the amount of new generation – such as solar – […]

By Priyanka Shrestha

Local electricity network operators must be more flexible when responding to requests for connections.

That’s according to Ofgem, which states the amount of new generation – such as solar – seeking connections to electricity distribution networks has grown “significantly” in recent years.

Around 26% of total generation capacity was made up of smaller generators linked to the distribution network operators’ (DNOs) grids by the end of 2015 – double the amount in 2011.

The regulator’s new report adds while generation is becoming more distributed, consumers are changing their patterns of demand and customers are looking to connect more low carbon technologies such as storage and electric vehicles.

It states while it isn’t clear exactly how quickly these technologies will appear and how they will be used, Ofgem warns an increase in connections can lead to congestion, “creating or exacerbating network constraints”.

James Veaney, Head of Electricity Connections and Constraint Management at Ofgem, believes the solution will not always be new pylons and wires as the time and costs involved isn’t always the most efficient option.

He is therefore calling on DNOs to make the best use of their existing grids.

The regulator also recommends DNOs to work “more closely” with the owners of high voltage grids and the system operator.

The report shows DNOs have made more than 3.7GW of capacity available through taking smarter approaches to connections, which includes flexible connection arrangements.

However it states: “There is more to do – new practices need to be embedded into the toolkit of options considered as business as usual. It is also important that practices evolve to remain efficient as the system changes, both for connecting customers and the system overall. In doing this, network operators need to engage constructively with customers to understand how best to meet their needs.

“We will also need to ensure regulation continues to support the best outcomes and we will consider this as we take forward our thinking on the transition to a smart, flexible energy system.”