Aston expertise to enable low carbon electricity networks


Central Networks West plc is the electricity distribution business for the Midlands, delivering electricity to 4.9 million customers and is part of E.ON, one of the world’s largest power and gas companies.

Central Networks is not an energy supplier/ producer, its primary objective is to deliver electricity through their network on behalf of electricity supply companies to homes and businesses. It is essential that this is a reliable and high quality service to efficiently manage electricity supply both now and in the future. 

E.ON UK’s ‘Changing Energy’ strategy is designed to support the Government’s energy objectives of delivering 20% renewable energy by 2020 and an 80% reduction in COby 2050. To achieve these objectives there will be a need for a large quantity of low-carbon Distributed Generators to be connected to the Distribution Networks. Existing distribution networks were not designed to accommodate distributed generation connections and new approaches to network design need to be explored.

 E.ON has joined forces with Aston University’s Power Engineering Group to look at maximising the connection of low carbon generation onto standard 11kV and 415V networks whilst minimising losses by looking into the feasibility of meshing existing 11kV and low voltage (LV) networks using newly available smart grid switches. These networks are traditionally arranged by using radial feeders with normally open links between them. This project will look at increased generation on a typical network under three different scenarios; traditional radial feeders, fixed meshed network and a meshed network with a dynamically changing topology.

The academic team, led by Dr Dani Strickland, with support from Drs Andrew Cross, Nagi Fahmi and Mr Steve Luke have extensive experience in teaching and research in electrical power systems. In working with Aston University, E.ON will be able to access new knowledge, skills and software modelling tools and techniques they are unfamiliar with. This expertise will be transferred to the company by assisting with the development of models and help with the definition of the capacity, loss, fault level and protection studies. Likewise Aston will also benefit from the partnership in developing their knowledge of practical operation of distribution networks, industrial standards and codes and conventional network designs and their rationale.

The access to the latest research at Aston will undoubtedly be of benefit to E.ON."

The envisaged outcome of the project is that it will enable more low-carbon distributed generation to be connected to the network. The expected reduction in losses in a distribution network will also offset carbon emissions from large fossil fuel power stations. The aim is also for E.ON to increase their environmental credentials as a result of the study as it will facilitate the connection of small scale generation units e.g. PV, wind, biofuel plants and fuel cells to the network. 

Lead academic Dr Danielle Strickland said “As well as developing our knowledge of the practical operation of distribution networks this project will create teaching case studies for up to 30 Foundation Degree students on our Electrical Power Engineering course. It will also strengthen our relationship with E.ON creating the potential for further collaboration.”

Company supervisor Dr Martin Aten said: “This KTP project should enable E.ON to make reductions in C02 emissions by allowing more low carbon generation. There is also the potential to reduce customer minutes lost during faults with the potential to save up to £5/ customer/ minute. The access to the latest research at Aston will undoubtedly be of benefit to E.ON.”

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email bpu@aston.ac.uk or call 0121 204 4242.