Three SSEN Transmission innovation projects for net zero progressing to next stage of Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund

Wind turbines and SSEN Transmission tower near Laurencekirk_1.jpg

Three projects set to support SSEN Transmission’s transition to net zero have been awarded a combined funding total of £1.2 million through Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). These projects will advance into the Alpha phase to develop innovative data-driven tools to transform transmission infrastructure.

The Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) is an Ofgem programme managed in partnership with UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) and is designed to drive the innovation needed to transform gas and electricity networks for a low-carbon future. These projects are funded by network users and consumers under SIF.

SSEN Transmission’s projects - INSIGHT, REACT and NIMBUS - have been successful in securing funding from the £450 million SIF pot that is available throughout the RIIO-2 price control period for network companies. These projects have already completed the initial three-month Discovery phase to overcome the technical uncertainties of the project and will progress into the six-month Alpha phase in October 2023 to establish proof-of-concept.

Since the fund was launched in 2021, SSEN Transmission has progressed six innovative projects in the themes: whole energy systems, net zero and the energy transition, and optimised assets and practices. Recently, they were awarded funding to advance two projects into the Beta stage – making SSEN Transmission one of the first energy networks to reach this phase.

Alan Ritchie, Innovation Manager at SSEN Transmission said: “Through SIF we have advanced six projects across the three phases of the programme so far, which we are thrilled to achieve. Our three projects advancing into the Alpha phase will help us gain a deeper understanding of what our future network could look like.

“The projects aim to develop tools and data processes that will help us to stabilise the network, visualise connection requests, and predict the impact of weather events and climate change, all of which will help us plan better for a net zero network.”

The projects involve close collaboration with 12 partners, consisting of other electricity and gas network operators and industry innovators.

Learn more about SSEN Transmission’s Alpha phase projects:

  • INSIGHT (Innovative Network Status Intelligence Gathered by Holistic use of Telemetry and Simulation)

In the past, the electricity network was stabilised by large, fossil fuelled generators connected to the network. Fluctuations in voltage, power, and frequency (known as oscillations) could be predicted, monitored, and addressed in design and planning. Today, these old power stations are being replaced with power electronics such as wind and HVDC, leading to new types of oscillations between new areas of the system. These new system oscillations are driven by different factors and require new insight to better understand their nature; how to predict them; and how to address them in network design and operation.

SSEN Transmission is working alongside the University of Strathclyde, National Grid ESO and the National HVDC Centre on this project. INSIGHT aims to deliver a virtual, real-time, alert and control system that can monitor and mitigate different types of oscillation events experienced on GB networks. The outputs of INSIGHT will improve the network's strength, stability, and reliability consequently enabling more renewable electricity on our networks.

  • REACT (Rapid Evaluation Area Connection Tool)

Delivering net zero will require a significant increase in electricity demand across the UK. This will include the increase in emerging technologies such as hydrogen and carbon capture utilisation and storage. Connection requests to the network are currently assessed on a case-by-case basis, with limited time to come up with creative solutions for coordination and efficiency.

REACT involves creating an impact planning tool that provides a dynamic overview of all future connection requests to SSEN Transmission’s Network. The tool will provide network transparency to future demand customers by allowing them to visualise the optimal locations to place new demand and efficiently roll out new infrastructure quicker, and in more strategic locations. This will help utilise the existing network and avoid large reinforcement, in turn providing a more cost-effective solution to decarbonisation. This project is being undertaken by SSEN Transmission with Olsights, Mapstand, SGN, National Grid and Icebreaker One.

  • NIMBUS (Network Innovation and Meteorology to Build for Sustainability)

Limitations of current weather and climate (meteorological) data mean that it is impossible to predict, with any great degree of accuracy, the impact that weather events and climate change will have on the individual assets that make up our electricity networks across their lifetime. With a life cycle of 40-60 years, assets built today will need to remain resilient during a period when climate change is predicted to extend both the duration and intensity of the weather extremes experienced today.

The NIMBUS project brings together the expertise of SSEN Transmission, SSEN Distribution, Icebreaker One, IBM, and Plantir to revolutionise the way detailed meteorological data and models are used in the design and decision-making of electricity assets, through innovative uses of the data and predictive modelling techniques. In turn, this will lead to improved intervention planning and asset protection, which could extend asset lives by 10 to 20 years.