UK’s first feasibility report to assess 5G adoption within energy networks begins


National Grid have partnered with Digital Catapult to produce a report to assess the opportunity for adoption of 5G within the electricity and gas transmission networks.

The project – ‘5G Art of the Possible’ – will be the first 5G techno-economic feasibility study on UK energy networks, setting the foundations for potential follow-up trials and rollout of applications into operations that can support the UK’s net zero ambitions.

This project aims to investigate the opportunities for 5G in the provision of high-speed and reliable wireless communications, to enable the digitalisation of operational processes and applications. These could range from digital image inspection, and condition and health monitoring of high-value assets, to field force enablement via the provision of improved connectivity and applications for operational staff across National Grid’s network.

The £255k Network Innovation Allowance funded project will jointly be led by National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET), National Grid Gas Transmission (NGGT) and with Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology established by Innovate UK which drives the acceleration and adoption of new and emerging technologies to drive growth for UK businesses across the economy.

The four-phase project aims to provide an assessment of the capabilities of current and future wireless networks and how these technologies can be applied by energy networks, with the learnings aimed at supporting the sector’s digitalisation, a key enabler for achieving Net Zero.

Phase one aims to understand the capabilities and opportunities offered by 5G networks, looking at current and future capabilities as well as deployment models that could be considered by energy networks. It will also provide an assessment of cyber risks and available security features.

Phase two considers deployment models, focusing on the extended list of use cases and how business needs can be mapped to the capabilities offered by 5G.

Phase three will review the scenarios in which the deployment of 5G technology can deliver the most benefits to energy networks and consumers. The assessments will look in detail at performance, cyber security, technical feasibility, risk and economic viability.

Finally, phase four will analyse the findings and follow the highest scoring applications, which will be developed into technical solutions. This includes preparations of technical specifications, designs and Cost Benefit Assessment, paving the way for follow up proof of concept and pilot projects for a development of a future 5G based solution.

Phase one and two of the project has already commenced, with phase four results to be delivered early part of 2022.

Thomas Charlton, senior innovation engineer for National Grid Electricity Transmission said: “Communication technology is developing at an ever-increasing pace and 5G has the potential to unleash a new wave of innovation for the energy sector. As owner of electricity assets across England and Wales, we can encounter connection issues or bandwidth restrictions.

“Providing remote connectivity that can be quickly deployed with sufficient bandwidth and resilience, at an affordable price, will need to be an integral part of the energy system transition to net zero. We look forward to working with the Digital Catapult and investigating the potential of 5G to see how our networks could benefit.”

Corinna Jones, innovation manager for National Grid Gas Transmission said: “This is an exciting project for Gas Transmission. Specialists from across the business have engaged to develop applications that will help support the gas transmission network, creating a more interconnected and digitised environment for delivery, commissioning, maintenance and management of assets and related processes.”

Niko Louvranos, commercial lead – energy, 5G & AI, from Digital Catapult said: “We are experiencing increased demand for high speed and reliable mobile communications as an enabler for the digitalisation and decarbonisation of energy networks to deliver on our net zero targets.

“5G as an applications’ platform can offer significant value in this context and can drive benefits across the UK’s energy networks. To this end, we are excited to work with National Grid to jointly undertake this detailed techno-economic assessment of deployment options and uses cases for energy networks. This will help us evaluate the potential benefits from a rollout of 5G and 5G-powered applications, and see how this can fit with National Grid’s current and future operational and business networks.”

The ‘5G Art of the Possible’ project is one part of National Grid Electricity Transmission’s Innovation programme, a series of projects, informed and developed by stakeholders, innovating to address the challenges of the energy transition.

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