Ambitious renewable energy goals
of network capacity unlocked
in customer savings
Smart Wires partnered with UK Power Networks to unlock 95 MW of additional network capacity — enough to power 45,000 homes with renewable energy — and saved customers £8 million. The Institution of Energy and Technology (IET) awarded this project Power & Energy Honors and Highly Commended in Sustainability and Environmental Impact.
Smart Wires partnered with National Grid to deploy 48 SmartValves on five circuits across three substations. This effort unlocked 1.5 GW of network capacity — enough to power one million homes with renewable energy — and saved customers £387 million. This successful initiative earned The Engineer’s Collaborate to Innovate (C2I) 2021 Energy & Environment award.
The UK regulator’s review process includes three key features: an analysis of potential options across multiple future scenarios, long-term rate planning, and an award-penalty mechanism that delivers a cost savings split to investors and consumers. Under these conditions, Smart Wires’ technology is properly valued for its speed of delivery and future flexibility.
National Grid ESO’s Network Options Assessment has identified and green-lit multiple additional installations of Smart Wires’ technology where it will unlock network capacity.
The UK has adopted ambitious renewable energy goals — and achieving them means overcoming key grid-related challenges.
Among these challenges is geography: much of the UK’s renewable generation is in wind-rich Scotland, whereas most demand is in London and elsewhere in the south. Meeting the country’s energy needs in affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible ways means optimizing existing electricity networks for efficient distribution and transmission.
Across the UK, network operators have partnered with Smart Wires to deploy low-cost, modular, and scalable technologies that provide rapid solutions, reduce constraint costs, add renewable energy, and defer the need for large capital outlays. These attributes — low cost, scalability, and modularity — also allow long-term flexibility as network needs change over time.
Regulation deep dive
In 2022, the government announced the creation of a Future System Operator (FSO) to manage the country’s energy system and further accelerate progress. The FSO will oversee the integration of technologies like hydrogen and carbon capture into existing gas and electricity systems. This fully independent, publicly owned entity will be founded on existing roles and capabilities in today’s System Operator (SO) but will require transfer of ownership. The UK is leading the global energy transition and the move to FSO is a key enabler of the country’s climate ambitions.
This announcement builds on the work of the UK regulator — Ofgem. For years, Ofgem has designed policy to encourage Transmission and Distribution Owners (TOs & DOs) and the existing SO to optimize current infrastructure.
One example is Ofgem’s Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) funding pool. NIA projects must be small (typically less than £5M), must be “first-of-a-kind,” and must make all results public and accessible to other network companies. In 2019, UK Power Networks and Smart Wires used NIA funding to support a project that successfully integrated renewables without expanding infrastructure — and earned a prestigious IET Award in the process.
Ofgem’s RIIO (Revenue = Incentives + Innovation + Output) regulatory framework is also central to UK leadership on grid modernization. RIIO includes several features that encourage a focus on customer benefit and environmental stewardship:
• A five-year rate plan that allows TOs to make stable financial forecasts over the long term.
• A structure where the SO reviews potential network solutions across multiple future scenarios and ensures the optimal investment is selected. This transparent process compares the benefits of grid enhancing technologies and new infrastructure, or combinations of the two.
• An award-penalty mechanism that incentivizes investments in network optimization. Under this mechanism, TOs that identify cost-saving technologies are permitted to split savings generated between investors and consumers.
These features have driven Smart Wires’ partnership with National Grid. Together, the partners have delivered significant consumer benefits — and plan to expand SmartValve deployments in the coming years.