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ENER-G, CHPA partner up for smart grid trial project in the UK

£5.5m three-year demonstration initiative aims to deliver an ‘intelligent approach’ to managing fault current.

CHP specialist ENER-G and the Combined Heat and Power Association (CHPA) have partnered up for the 'Respond' project, a trial program designed to create a smarter electricity grid that promises to deliver reliable low carbon power supply at the lowest possible cost.

‘Respond’ aims to deliver an intelligent approach to managing fault current - the instantaneous surge of energy that occurs under fault conditions. This is intended to help meet future low carbon electricity demand without the need to build costly new infrastructure. The £5.5m three-year demonstration project, led by Electricity North West, is benefiting from £4.5m funding from energy regulator Ofgem. Other project partners include: ABB, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Impact Research, Schneider Electric and United Utilities.

“The 'Respond' trial will allow us to explore new technical and commercial solutions to get more from our existing network,” said Steve Johnson, CEO of Electricity North West. “This will ensure customers continue to get the power they need and give them the flexibility to connect renewable energy sources, such as combined heat and power plants, without us having to invest in new expensive infrastructure. By using these innovative techniques to intelligently manage fault current, customers could see lower bills.”

Chris Marsland, technical director for ENER-G Combined Power Ltd, said the groundbreaking ‘Respond’ trial could provide future low carbon power more competitively. Specifically, it could “increase further the financial returns of CHP by providing commercial and industrial users with an income stream from playing their part in reinforcing the network. Respond has the power to accelerate the roll out of distributed generation from CHP and other low carbon and renewable sources."

Smart grid, intelligent software

Using intelligent software in the form of an Active Response Fault Level Assessment Tool, the plan is to demonstrate that fault current can be managed at lower cost by using existing assets, such as CHP, together with new commercial techniques. In this way, the partners said, it is hoped to accelerate the uptake of low carbon demand and renewable generation while avoiding the need to prematurely replace expensive switchgear and cables. This would also ultimately deliver savings to all distribution network customers, according to the partners.1

A key component of the trial is the Respond ‘Fault Level Assessment Tool,’ which will calculate potential fault current in real time and take mitigating action, if necessary. One of the mitigating techniques to be piloted with selected ENER-G CHP customers in the North West is a Fault Current Limiting service (FCL service). This would automatically cut CHP power exports to the grid if fault current levels were raised above a pre-set threshold. Customers would receive financial incentives from Distribution Network Operators in return for their contribution to smooth grid operation.

ENER-G's R&D test cell and engineering expertise will be used to assess adaptive protection technologies that would enable CHP systems to take evasive action in the event of excess fault current. These techniques could then be adapted for use by other distributed generators, such as wind and solar assets. Note: The new fault level mitigation techniques would only operate in those rare occurrences when they are enabled and a fault occurs. Standard protection would operate for faults when the technique is disabled. Having this active response ability would enable 'Respond' to extend the useful life of switchgear, thereby avoiding the need for costly reinforcement – benefiting customers, stakeholders and the environment.

ENER-G and the CHPA plan to work with Impact Research to conduct a survey to establish customer interest in the FCL service, and will share knowledge gained from the project with the industry.


  1. ENER-G predicts the 'Respond' methods will release the same capacity as traditional reinforcement, but up to 18 times faster and at much lower cost – up to 80% cheaper – potentially saving the UK £2.3 billion by 2050.

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