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Power Potential

The first trial of its kind in the world, Power Potential aims to open up new markets for distributed energy resources and generate additional capacity by alleviating transmission and distribution constraints. The outcome will be more renewable energy connected to the network and savings for our customers. It takes a coordinated, whole-system approach to achieve efficient network planning and operation.

Power Potential explores how large volumes of power from distributed renewable energy and storage can be effectively absorbed into the transmission network and can provide services, such as dynamic voltage control, traditionally provided by generators such as coal and gas-fired power stations.

The three-year study is based in the South East region of the UK, where the connection of distributed energy resources is growing rapidly. Given the region’s location, there is also high interconnection with continental Europe with HVDC links of 2GW increasing to 5GW with future projects.  

In partnership with UK Power Networks, we have been awarded £8 million by Ofgem from their Network Innovation Competition (NIC), which supports energy projects that demonstrate environmental benefits, cost reductions and improved security of supply. 

Why Power Potential?

What is the challenge?

As renewables replace synchronous generation, there are challenges to the management of supply including:

  • High voltage in periods of low demand;
  • Low voltage under certain fault conditions; and
  • Thermal constraints during the outage season.

As a result, there are constraints on the numbers of low carbon technologies that can connect in the South East region as well as a high risk of operational issues in the network and a high cost of managing those issues.

What is our aim?

In order to provide voltage support in the area, increasing reactive compensation is needed. Distributed Energy Resources (DER) connected in the distribution network have the potential to provide reactive and active power services to the system. Giving us access to resources connected in UKPN’s South East network will provide additional tools for managing voltage transmission constraints. It will also open up new revenue streams for distributed energy resources by opening up a new market for them.

One of the project’s main goals is to provide a route to market for distributed energy resources to provide more ancillary services. Power Potential will create a regional reactive power market, which will be the first of its kind in the Great Britain and it will help to defer network reinforcement needs in the transmission system, ultimately saving customers money by using our existing infrastructure more efficiently.

How will we do this?

Power Potential is structured into the following key deliverables:

  • A commercial framework using market forces to create new services from distributed energy resources to National Grid via UK Power Networks.
  • A market solution known as Distributed Energy Resources Management System (DERMS) to support technical and commercial optimisation and dispatch.
  • In high level, the DERMS solution is envisaged to work as follows:
  • Gather commercial availability, capability and costs from each DER;
  • Run power flows assessments to calculate the possible availability of each service at the grid service point and present that information to us; and
  • Instruct each DER to change their set–point as required and monitor their response on the day power is required by us.

What are the benefits?

If successful Power Potential could potentially save up to £412m for UK consumers by 2050. It could be introduced to 59 other transmission sites and produce an additional 3,720 MW of generation in the South East area by 2050.

Please click here to see more project details on Ofgem's website.

Requirements for participation

Our vision

National Grid and UK Power Networks, together with the Office for Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), have a shared vision for a more open and participatory power system.

This vision focuses on lowering barriers to entry to new markets to enable more participants to provide active and reactive power services. In this way, increased competition would be achieved which would ultimately lead to lower prices for electricity customers and to the delivery of the UK’s power system decarbonisation targets.

The Power Potential innovation project between us and UK Power Networks trials opportunities for Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) to provide new services to the electricity transmission system, creating new revenue opportunities and establishing new business models for the development and operation of DERs. In particular, through this trial DERs would support the transmission system with both reactive and active power services in the South-East of England.

Given this context, National Grid and UK Power Networks would like to invite you to consider taking part in the Power Potential trial which could result in an additional revenue stream for your plant.

Who should participate?

The following generators/plants connected in the South-East coast area of England are encouraged to participate in the Power Potential trial:

  • PV power plants;
  • Wind farms;
  • Batteries and storage sites; 
  • Synchronous generators; 
  • Aggregators; and/or
  • Other distributed energy resources (DERs) not reflected in this list.


Before deciding to take part in the trial there are a number of points you may need to consider. These include the following:

  • What are the services to be provided through Power Potential?
  • How do I know if my plant is suitable?
  • Do I need to make any changes to my plant to take part?
  • What are the next steps?

Events and news

Low Carbon Networks and Innovation (LCNI) Conference 2017

Power Potential exhibited and presented at this year's Low Carbon Networks and Innovation Conference on 6 and 7 December. You can find out more about it on the LCNI website

Switzerland visit

The Power Potential team had a great opportunity to visit Swissgrid, the Swiss transmission grid operator and Axpo Power AG, a Distribution System Operator (DSO) in Switzerland. Both meetings have given us learning we can implement into our own project. 

The meeting with Swissgrid gave us a great opportunity to understand how they manage active voltage control in their network. Swissgrid's power system has no, or a very small amount of non-synchronous generation, the biggest difference from our system. We also learned that Swissgrid established a fixed price that is paid to the DSO at the interface between the two systems. They also implement a penalty charge to any DSO which operates outside the defined reactive envelope.

Meeting Axpo Power AG was equally beneficial. The DSO is responsible for dispatching reactive power from the Distribution Energy Resources (DER) in order to meet the envelope at the interface between distribution and transmission. They showed us how their power plants meet the requirements for active voltage control. Of particular interest for us was a control algorithm, their equivalent of the Power Potential DERM system, which they are developing in-house. The control algorithm does not account for post-fault dynamic control, however--a fundamental difference from the Power Potential project.

Both visits provided useful learning we can implement into our project. 

Distributed Energy Resources (DER) 1-2-1s

Power Potential has been meeting with interested parties across different technology types and business models including; renewable generation, battery storage, diesel, combined heat and power plants, asset owners and demand side aggregators. The sessions have helped us understand more about the capability of individual projects, provide further guidance on the technical and commercial arrangements for the project, and seek input to ensure the route to market, created by Power Potential, is accessible for a range of technologies.

Common themes we have identified:

  • The ease of forecasting accurately the volume that would be available, particularly for active power (MW) - depending on technology type, there were different preferences on how close to real-time availability should be declared.
  • Metering requirements for verification of service delivery - it's important to ensure metering costs aren't prohibitive to participation.
  • Interaction with other services or agreements - it's necessary to consider the impact of participation in Power Potential on existing Balancing Services contracts and PPAs.
  • The distinction between availability instructions and arming instructions for reactive power (Mvars) - depending on technology type and fuel source/cost, there were different views on whether availability instructions should lead to assets being armed, or whether this should occur at a later stage in the dispatch process. 

Thank you to those who took part in our sessions. We hope you found them as useful as we have. We welcome any follow-up session to continue the discussions. Alternatively, if you would like to arrange a similar discussion for your organisation or project, you can contact the Power Potential team.

Related documents

Technical solution

In order to enable Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) to provide new services to the electricity transmission system, a management platform is currently being developed that will facilitate the communication between DERs connected to UK Power Networks and National Grid.

Find out more