Vodafone slices 5G network for UK Power Networks as part of major smart grid trial
Vodafone has kickstarted a trial with UK Power Networks to connect the UK electricity network on a dedicated slice of its national 5G network. The initiative is part of the grid operator’s new Constellation project, to bring compute resources into its substation network, connected over 5G.
UK Power Networks is the UK’s biggest electricity network operator. ABB, General Electric, and Siemens are also involved, alongside the University of Strathclyde, to provide edge software and applications to enable each substation to “edit the configuration of the network automatically to run more efficiently”, said Vodafone.
The project, funded by UK energy regulator Ofgem’s annual Network Innovation Competition, was announced late last year; the Constellation project team is to select multiple testing locations in the southeast of England and at the University of Strathclyde’s power networks test facility near Glasgow.
The edge compute installation and 5G slicing setup are designed to enable UK Power Networks to respond to dynamic changes to the electricity network, including future demands caused by large scale shifts to renewable energy, electric vehicles, and electric heating. If rolled out across the UK, the solution could save 63,702 tonnes of CO2 by 2050, equivalent to emissions from 38,607 return flights between London and New York, said Vodafone.
A statement said: “The project aims to supercharge the UK’s net zero carbon ambitions by creating extra room for renewables on the network. UK Power Networks has seen a huge rise in the volume of clean energy like wind and solar connecting to the grid over the past ten years, going from just a handful of large, centralised generators in 1990 to more than 170,000 today. These range from household solar panels to large-scale commercial wind farms.”
Andrea Dona, chief network officer at Vodafone UK, said: “Helping customers achieve ambitious net zero targets is part of our strategy. The team at UK Power Networks has seen the huge potential of 5G and network slicing. 5G is not only replacing older and more expensive technologies, it is bringing about new capabilities that benefit everyone – consumers, businesses, and the environment.”
Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks, said: “We are creating an exciting platform that keep our networks the smartest in the world. We already have smart control rooms and smart electric vehicle chargers – developing smart substations in the middle will help us facilitate net zero and deliver real cost and carbon savings for our customers.”