On October 11, 2016, the United Kingdom launched its first virtual power distribution station. National Grid, the first British player in energy distribution, introduced a cloud into its operating environment. Built by Reactive Technologies, this cloud now links the grid to massive amounts of digital data from shops and homes. In this article, we will focus on this new technology for management of large-scale electrical power consumption.
Solutions by Reactive Technologies
The solutions created by Reactive Technologies (RT) help control consumption peaks and distribution demand throughout the day. This system is connected to the national grid which includes green power generators as well as transmission and distribution stations.
An electrical network connected to an electricity consumption data-processing cloud ensures intelligent and efficient energy management in many ways. It allows:
- Decreased consumption costs
- Optimal use of resources
- Medium and long term planning of resources required for energy production
- Improving and simplifying the operating environment
- Reducing the consumption of fossil fuels by standby generators providing extra electrical power during peak periods; and consequently, reducing the carbon footprint.
The main objective of the technologies developed by Reactive Technologies is to anticipate energy needs while guaranteeing to consumers and suppliers environmentally responsible and inexpensive consumption. The solution offered by Reactive Technologies to National Grid is part of its research on the intelligent management of energy demand: Demand Side Management (DSM). Registered under the name Tradenergy®, this service is available free of charge for multi-location customers such as hospitals, hotels, university campuses, restaurants, etc. The cloud-based database created and used by Reactive Technologies is called Smarter DSM. It is highly secure and guarantees anonymity. The company expects to provide its connected system to private customers in approximately 18 months.
The new infrastructure for electrical energy consumption management
Tradenergy® is connected to customers’ electrical appliances with smart outlets. The outlet is in turn connected to the electrical energy transmission and distribution networks of National Grid across the UK. When the system detects an unnecessary overconsumption, it sends a signal to the outlet, through the electrical network, requesting an operational adjustment. All of the signals sent on launch day were received by connected household appliances. Now Tradenergy® can request that a freezer increase its temperature by 0.5 C degrees (0.9 F°) or that a water heater use renewable alternative energy at 1 a.m. The solution is indeed part of a large development in-progress in the energy sector, in which large centralized power stations using fossil fuels are replaced with decentralized renewable energy and smart grids.
In the beginning, the transmission of signals across the country was a technical challenge. Basement transformer air gaps can inhibit the transmission of high frequency data. To solve this problem, a technology developed at the Nokia laboratories has been used by Reactive Technologies to encode the data in a 50 Hz signal which is not affected by the air gaps.
Economic Forecast and Outlook
The National Infrastructure Commission estimated that this system will save $13 billion (£8bn – conversion 2016/10/27) for consumers per year: forecasts calculated based on a period of usage to 2030. The United Kingdom is actively investing in environmental innovation to move as quickly as possible towards a green economy. In this regard, there is the annual competition for innovation in the fields of electrical energy management: the Electricity Network Innovation Competition (NIC), which encourages the development of the Internet of Things by subsidizing innovative concepts for simplifying and optimizing the country’s production and distribution infrastructure.
Hanen Hattab is a PhD student in Semiology at UQAM. Her research focuses on subversive and countercultural arts and design practices such as artistic vandalism, sabotage and cultural diversions in illustration, graphic arts and sculpture.