Communications technology allows connected devices to share information and enables remote control and measurement of electrical assets across electricity networks
Data has been transmitted across the UK’s National Grid in a world first for energy communications technology. Reactive Technologies, a leading UK-based smart grid and demand-side response (DSR) company, worked in partnership with the National Grid and SSE on the nationwide project.
Reactive’s Grid Data and Measurement System (GDMS) technology claims to offer a new and cost-effective way of communicating with electrical assets or devices connected to an electricity network, marking a significant step towards a smart energy revolution.
Traditional approaches to communicating with assets require a reliable internet or mobile communication connection in addition to an individual meter, which can prove financially prohibitive and limit the viability of DSR schemes that incorporate thousands of smaller assets. Many assets are excluded from existing DSR arrangements due to a lack of remote connectivity. GDMS provides an alternative, cost-effective solution to this by using the frequency of the electricity network to carry data.
Connected devices send and receive data across the electricity network through minute and subtle changes made to the grid frequency by modulating the power consumption of transmitting devices. These ‘on’ and ‘off’ or frequency changes create a unique code. Receivers, embedded in the plugs of devices, such as freezers, hot water tanks and air conditioning equipment, are programmed to detect these frequency changes.
Receiving devices then identify and decode the messages, which automatically tell the device to carry out a particular instruction, for example, to tell the device to take action such as turn down or turn off according to a schedule, or based on grid frequency changes.
GDMS will give electricity network operators greater insight into the behaviour of ‘prosumers’ – customers who have the ability to generate, consume and store their own electricity. The data provided by GDMS will provide a clearer picture of how electricity is generated and consumed at the distribution network level.
Such information is essential for operators tasked with balancing electricity networks which are becoming increasingly complex with the increased variety of assets connected to them such as distributed and intermittent generators like solar along with electric vehicles and batteries.
GDMS will allow network operators to reduce costs and pass savings on to electricity consumers by improving the accuracy of forecasting models and the purchase of energy reserves.
Marc Borrett, CEO of Reactive said GDMS is “a truly disruptive technology” which has the potential to benefit many different stakeholders across the energy supply chain. “In the past the energy sector has drawn upon mechanical and electrical engineering skills to meet its technical needs. Now it is time for change,” he said. “We are bringing highly innovative communications engineering capabilities to the energy space, offering radically different solutions that can address the critical issues facing our energy networks.”
Cordi O’Hara, Director of UK System Operator, National Grid said: “It represents another step forward in the development of the smart grid technologies that are going to play an increasingly important role in the energy systems of the future.
“National Grid signed up to the scheme as part of its work to support innovative ways to help balance supply and demand and also provide benefits to customers. Technology that allows devices to communicate quickly will help encourage ‘demand side’ solutions that encourage efficient use of energy and will increasingly become part of the way the grid is managed.”
Reactive is now focusing on building further partnerships to bring the technology to market in the UK and overseas with parties such as distributed generators, network operators and energy suppliers along with electricity consumers and prosumers.
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