The ‘power system architecture’ is the underlying structure of the electricity system – how its components and its participants are organised and interact.
Major policy challenges, advanced technologies and emerging new business models will require transformative change to Britain’s power system architecture by 2030.
These changes are required in order to meet the triple challenge of:
- maintaining secure and reliable electricity supply
- delivering the policy and legal commitment to deep decarbonisation
- value for money as new technologies and techniques are integrated at scale.
Further, technology, market and customer drivers include much greater deployment of large scale wind and solar PV farms, smaller scale generation connected to distribution networks, microgeneration in customers’ premises, more reliance on interconnectors and growth of domestic and grid-scale storage. On the demand side, electric vehicles, heat pumps and smart appliances will disrupt traditional demand patterns and interact with smart meters, cost-reflective tariffs and automated demand-side response. Meanwhile, new players such as smart cities and community energy schemes will create market opportunities through aggregation of both supply and demand.
The Future Power System Architecture (FPSA) project was commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to assist ministers, officials and industry professionals to anticipate these developments and to assess their significance. It was led by the Energy Systems Catapult and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). The project uses systems engineering techniques to examine credible evolutionary pathways and new functionality required. The project’s analysis draws on National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios, focusing on the Gone Green scenario as the one most consistent with established policy objectives.
Project findings – the new functionalities required by 2030
The project has identified 35 new or significantly modified functions required to meet 2030 power system objectives, of which the drivers are:
- The flexibility to meet changing but uncertain requirements
- The change in mix of electricity generation
- The use of price signals or other incentives
- The emergence of new participants
- The active management of networks, generation, storage and demand
- The recovery from major outages
- The need for some coordination across energy vectors
Why this agenda is challenging
The new functions have features that challenge the established system architecture:
- They reach beyond the meter and into the home, interacting with consumers’ equipment influenced by prices, creating many more active components in the electricity system.
- They bring greatly increased complexity, involving the aggregate behaviour of millions of devices, consumers and businesses, all interacting in more price-sensitive markets.
- They cross current commercial, organisational and governance boundaries, so require a whole-system view from the large power station down to the smart kitchen appliance.
- They introduce new data, IT and communications requirements, bringing design, standardisation, privacy and cyber-security challenges.
- They present new requirements for the forecasting and simulation of whole-system behaviours that are needed to support power system and market processes.
- They will ultimately span all vectors, covering electricity, gas, petroleum and biomass as the electrification of heat and transport energy proceeds.
The 2030 power system will be characterised by greatly increased complexity, interaction and dynamism reaching from within the home to the largest power station with many more engaged participants. The project identifies four credible evolutionary pathways for the power sector over the next 15–20 years, and recognises the need for innovation to address gaps in the available technologies and capabilities required to deliver the new functionality.