Power of maths helping to create electricity grid of the future
Release Date 28 November 2011
Mathematicians at the University of Reading are helping to develop a ‘smart' power distribution system to prepare the street-level electricity grid for a low-carbon future.
Experts at the University's Centre for Mathematics of Human Behaviour are providing the analytics and modelling expertise behind a new £30m pilot project funded by Ofgem.
The project is designed to find new ways of managing the existing power grid, in a future where electric cars and micro-generators become more common, while a greater fraction of total energy consumption shifts towards electricity.
The New Thames Valley Vision project, based in Bracknell, is a partnership between Southern Electric Power Distribution, the University of Reading, GE Energy, Honeywell, Kema, EA Technology and Bracknell Forest Council, and aims to revolutionise the way that electricity distributors use their existing networks.
Academics at the University of Reading will develop data analysis and modelling techniques to understand and predict how people actually use electricity at a street-by-street level.
As well as analysing current electricity use, researchers will use models to predict the impact of quantifiable social phenomena such as word of mouth recommendation, peer pressure and keeping up with the neighbours. These can explain why people make behavioural decisions based on what others are doing. Such models can explain why local power grids are likely to experience ‘clusters' where several homes on one street have solar panels, for example, while another street has none.
The research will be led by Professor Peter Grindrod CBE, Director of the Centre for Mathematics of Human Behaviour, within the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
Professor Grindrod said: "The pace of change in technology and in human behaviour will challenge all of the current assumptions made by the power generating and distribution industries.
"We are proud and excited to be part of this New Thames Valley Vision team. This is a large scale project and the role of modelling and adaptive analytics, in which the University of Reading is already a centre of excellence, sets this project apart, and will help it lead the way in preparing Britain for the low-carbon future ahead."
The University will also undertake smart control research by Dr Ben Potter and Dr William Holderbaum within the School of Systems Engineering.
It is hoped that the five-year project will prepare the local low-voltage network - the underground system of cables that supply homes and businesses - for the changes that lie ahead as more people use less fossil fuels in favour of alternative methods to fuel their cars and heat their homes. These changes will put increasing pressure on existing low-voltage electricity grids. The scheme will enable network operators to anticipate, understand, plan and support low-carbon technology to help manage their networks more effectively.
The long-term research partnership will be worth £2.5m to the University of Reading over five years, building on current collaborations between the University and Scottish and Southern Energy, parent company of Southern Electric Power Distribution.
Ends For more information or interview requests on the University of Reading's involvement in the project, contact Pete Castle, University of Reading press officer, on 0118 378 7391 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes to editors:
UK Energy regulator Ofgem approved Southern Electric Power Distribution's £29.9m New Thames Valley Vision project on November 28. The project, based in Bracknell, aims to revolutionise the way in which electricity Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) utilise their existing networks.
The Thames Valley Vision is being delivered by Southern Electric Power Distribution in partnership with University of Reading, GE Energy, Honeywell, Kema, EA Technology and Bracknell Forest Council. Each partner brings their expertise and support to develop this innovative project: University of Reading will develop their ‘smart analytics' to understand customer behaviour and forecast network requirements; GE Energy will implement an integrated network modelling and management environment; Honeywell will implement their automatic demand response technology to enable commercial customers to support the network; EA Technology will identify how UK practices need to be improved as a result of this project; and Kema will ensure the project is informed by and informs international learning.
New Thames Valley Vision is part of the Innovation programme, run by Southern Electric Power Distribution's parent company, Scottish and Southern Energy, which will see the company bring forward projects to make sure its networks can support the UK's low carbon future.
The move towards green technology means that more demands will be made on the electricity network, as renewable energy starts to replace other forms of power. In particular, electricity flowing from solar panels, along with the charging of electric vehicles and operation of electric heat pumps, is changing the time and amount of energy needed on the network and means that power distributors will have to invest in the network to make sure it can cope.
If the cable companies were to reinforce the network in the traditional way - upgrading substations and replacing underground cables with bigger ones - the costs, which are met through electricity bills, would be extremely high. With New Thames Valley Vision, Southern Electric aims to make better use of the existing network by operating them in new ways, and involving industrial and commercial customers in providing services to the network. By using existing assets more effectively, costs can be significantly reduced.
Centre for the Mathematics of Human Behaviour, University of Reading
The Centre is part of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Reading.
The CMOHB focuses on problems in complexity theory with applications to social systems, rather than other complexity theory groups that tend to focus on physical and chemical systems, making it almost unique within the UK mathematics community. Social and behavioural systems are distinct, since at an individual subject level they contain inconsistent, evolving, and rationally bounded people.
The CMOHB is led by Professor Peter Grindrod CBE with Dr Danica Greetham, along with seven post-doctoral research assistants and fellows, employed directly by the CMOHB and the University of Reading spin-out company, Counting Lab Ltd.
For more information see: http://www.reading.ac.uk/maths-and-stats/research/cmohb/maths-cmhbresearch_home.aspx
The University of Reading
The University of Reading is ranked as one of the UK's most research-intensive universities and as one of the top 200 universities in the world. It has a world-class reputation for teaching, research and enterprise. The quality and diversity of the University's research is recognised nationally and internationally, and is home to several centres of excellence. It conducts world-class research across a broad range of disciplines, including meteorology and climate change, typography and graphic design, archaeology, philosophy, food biosciences, construction management, real estate and planning, and law.