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First stage complete of UK's £54m leading smart grid project

12,000 customers involved in UK’s biggest smart grid project set to see new tech trialled across England this year

The GBP 54m CLNR smart grid project will see electricity networks across the UK become "smarter" to accommodate Britain's changing energy requirements

The UK's largest smart grid project has completed the first stage of its research into electricity consumption after establishing a series of ongoing trials with 12,000 customers. The GBP 54m Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR) project is testing a number of innovative solutions to ensure Britain's electricity networks are fit for the future and ready for the mass uptake of low carbon technologies, such as solar PV, heat pumps and electric vehicles.

Government targets to cut carbon emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050 will help the UK reduce its carbon footprint and establish a low carbon economy, but achieving these targets will largely depend on low carbon technologies being adopted on a nationwide scale. As many of these are electricity-dependent, the additional demand created will mean that electricity networks across the UK need to become "smarter" to accommodate Britain's changing energy requirements and help accelerate the development of a low carbon energy sector.

Led by Northern Powergrid and its partners British Gas, EA Technology and Durham University, the CLNR project is studying electricity consumption patterns, customer flexibility and will trial pioneering new smart grid technology across electricity networks in northern regions of England throughout 2013. The findings from all CLNR trials are being shared with other electricity distribution network operators across the UK.

Dr Liz Sidebotham, communications manager for the CLNR project, said: "Through the CLNR project, we are already preparing for the widespread uptake of low carbon technologies by carrying out groundbreaking trials with thousands of customers and testing innovative new technology on the electricity network.

"Within the first stage of the project we've been actively studying thousands of residential, commercial and industrial electricity customers to better understand how much electricity people use, when they use it and for what purpose, and whether financial or other incentives can encourage them to shift their usage away from periods of peak demand.”

Liz added: "Later this year we will be publishing more results that provide further insight into customer flexibility and the effect of various interventions such as demand side response, where customers are incentivised to reduce their electricity usage or increase their generation in response to a signal from the electricity network operator.

"The current debate around the capacity margin needed to meet the UK's future energy needs has largely overlooked the role of smart grids and demand side measures, but if customers are willing to be flexible with how and when they use electricity, it would offer a cost-effective solution in the drive to create a sustainable, low carbon energy sector."

News of the CLNR follows reports of major future growth in the smart grid sector. In early March, 2013, Pike Research reported that the smart grid technology market will total USD 494bn in cumulative revenue up to 2020.