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ElectraLink, the UK’s Energy Market Data Hub (EMDH), has partnered with Western Power Distribution (WPD), the company responsible for electricity distribution in South Wales, the South West and Midlands, on a ground-breaking project that will allow WPD to understand the impact of electric vehicles and other low carbon technologies on its network.

The new project, launched today and called the Low Carbon Technologies (LCT) Detection project, will allow WPD to identify areas where there is a high proliferation of electric vehicles, solar panels or other low carbon technologies and manage its network accordingly.

Electric vehicle (EV) ownership is on the rise and will continue to increase – with the Government predicting that there could be 10.5 million EVs on the road by 2030. While this brings significant benefits such as improved air quality and reduction of noxious emissions, it also poses a challenge to our electricity networks.

Managing this new demand will require smart charging and other smart solutions but these necessitate visibility of where EVs are connected to the distribution network at the local level – something that, up to now, has proved difficult for Distribution Network Operators (DNOs, the companies responsible for managing the networks that deliver electricity at a local level).

The LCT Detection project will make use of ElectraLink’s unique energy market dataset combined with other data and enhanced by IBM’s Watson Studio to help provide WPD with much needed insights into the ever-growing demand for electric vehicles, as well as other low carbon technologies such as solar panels and heat pumps. By infusing AI into the project, data that has not been combined previously will be tied together – including images and text – to provide increasing visibility into where LCT equipment is located.   This will allow WPD’s network planners to accurately assess the existing network capacity and understand how this is likely to change in the future.

Roger Hey, Future Networks Manager at Western Power Distribution, explains: “The LCT Detection project could be a gamechanger for Distribution Network Operators. Through analysis of historic data and identification of future trends, the project will deliver a virtual monitoring capability that will allow network planners to forecast the locations of ‘hot spots’ of electric vehicles, solar panels and heat pumps. This will help us plan for strategic deployment of real-time monitoring as we approach our next investment period.”

Stuart Lacey, Chief Executive at ElectraLink said, “ElectraLink performs a vital role as the data hub at the centre of the energy market in the UK.  Since 2012 we have pioneered the use of market data to facilitate competition and improve the efficiency of the energy market believing that data transparency is good for consumers and the energy industry.  The LCT Detection project is an excellent example of how ElectraLink is using innovative data analysis to engage with its DNO shareholders in support of their transition to the role of Distribution System Operators.”

Laurence Carpanini, Energy Solution Leader, IBM UK and Ireland, added: “IBM is incredibly excited to be working with WPD and ElectraLink on this project. With the help of Watson Studio, the project will demonstrate how to accelerate the infusion of AI in WPD’s business to drive innovation that can be used to help facilitate increasing numbers of electric vehicles and other low carbon technologies on our local electricity networks.”

To find out more about the LCT Detection project and other WPD network innovation projects, come along to WPD’s Balancing Act event in Bristol on 21 November. Register for the event here: