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  • Distribution Innovation

  • Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks are constantly seeking to improve our understanding of the challenges facing the distribution network in Great Britain, and to find ways to overcome these challenges to ensure security of supply and value for money as Britain moves to a low carbon economy.

    A number of our projects benefit from external funding, which you can read about in the Funding Mechanisms page.

    We actively share the results and methodology of our research with all distribution network operators (DNOs) and stakeholders – why not sign up for our Quarterly Newsletter and stay informed?

  • NIA Projects

    NIA SSEPD 001 DISCERN Knowledge Transfer

    DISCERN focused on the need for enhanced intelligence on a distribution network and the replicability and scalability of solutions across different networks. In addition to direct learning from the solutions trialled at five Smart Grid demonstration sites across Europe, the diverse range of consortium partners enabled the creation of a suite of tools designed to support operators by informing their decisions on the development of networks that will provide high security of supply for the future.

    Expected outcomes -  Studies and research directly relevant to SSEN, is made available for incorporation into both business and innovation strategic thinking. Knowledge relating to a range of Smart Grid sub-functionalities not yet being investigated within the business is made available from other FP7 DISCERN partners. Research and demonstration sites and simulations support decisions on how networks are built, managed and operated. Knowledge of such factors as systems architecture, use cases & Smart Grid Architecture Model (SGAM), semantic models and Common Information Model, is improved across operational and innovation areas of the business, as well as ICT, such that it is possible to take a view on the potential development, relevance and applicability of such approaches within the business from a BAU perspective. SSEN has successfully met all of its obligations as a project partner in the FP7 DISCERN project, and ensured that project outputs do not go against GB interests, specifically those forming recommendations to standards authorities.

    NIA SSEPD 0014 Underground Cable overlay Cost Reduction
    The project aims to investigate whether two identified cable overlay methods could reduce the cost and disturbance caused to the customers due to the cable overlay activity.  

    Expected outcomes -  The project aims to determine the effectiveness (positive or negative) of the innovative cable overlay methods in comparison to the traditional open-cut trench approach. The effectiveness will be measured through variation of the unit cost of cable overlay (quantitative information), variation of the disturbance caused due to the innovative cable overlay method (qualitative information) and variation in the environmental impact of the cable overlay process (qualitative and/or quantitative information).

    NIA SSEPD 0015 LV Connectivity Modelling

    This project will develop a low voltage (LV) connectivity model using software to align meter supply points with local substations so that the links between substation feeders and user premises can be shown.

    Expected outcomes - The project aims to conclude whether the use of data analytics techniques with the available data are either able to make an accurate LV connectivity model, or not able to make an accurate LV connectivity model.
    NIA SSEPD 0016 Alternative Cable Installation Methods

    The project aims to identify innovative cable installation methods that can reduce the cost of cable installation and increase the length of cables that can be installed without having joints.

    Expected outcomes - The project will be considered a success if it determines whether or not there are innovative methods for cable installation that have the potential to reduce costs and, or install long sections of cable without joints.

    NIA SSEPD 0017 Overhead Line Vibration Monitoring Phase 2

    This project will complete the development of a technical method that commenced in a previous Innovation Funding Incentive (IFI) project. In that project, wire mounted sensors incorporating electronics for detecting change in angle, wire sag and impact of a wire strike were developed. The IFI phase led to the production of prototype sensors which demonstrated proof of concept through successful vibration testing on overhead lines.

    Expected outcomes - The project will demonstrate that wire mounted sensors can sense wire strikes and wire sags, and have a mounted life of more than 6 months. It will also demonstrate that the information from the sensors can be used to discriminate between varying types of wire impacts, and reject false positives, eg heavy birds landing or colliding.

    NIA SSEPD 0018 Remotely Operated Forestry Mulcher
    This project seeks to investigate the potential improvement of efficiency and safety through the use of remotely operated vehicles to carry out tasks associated with forestry mulching.  

    Expected outcomes - The project will evaluate Remotely Operated Mulching Methods in service, to determine if it is a substitute for hand clearance using chainsaws and a chipping machine if viable, it will substantially increase the productivity of the treecutting teams in certain kinds of job.

    NIA SSEPD 0019 Western Isles Resilient Zone Utilising Embedded Generation – Feasibility Study

    The aim of this project is to determine the potential to improve the resilience of supply to customers in the Western Isles, and to reduce the use of diesel generation.

    Expected outcomes - The delivery of a study which determines the viability of options to permit the operation of the network in an island mode. This will determine the potential to use the increasing volume of wind generation on the islands to reduce the running hours of the embedded diesel generation plant.

    NIA SSEPD 002 SASensor High-Medium Voltage (HMV) Primary Substation Provider
    This project uses a digitised approach where a single processing unit protects the entire substation. It also gives remote access to fault information, which may assist in a reduction of customer minutes lost during power cuts, and provides information which can be used to determine whether maintenance of plant and equipment is required.  

    Expected outcomes - Reduction in costs of installation due to reduced hardware and a reduction of costs during storms if details can be extracted remotely about the type of faults that have occurred.

    NIA SSEPD 0020 Overhead Line Monitoring

    Under IFI project 2014_08 Monitoring of Conductors and Poles, a prototype sensor system, comprising line mounted sensors, and a communications system was developed to operate on overhead lines up to 11kV. This project will take that work further to produce a production ready system.

    Expected outcomes - The project will be a success if it can demonstrate whether or not wire mounted sensors can be used to improve customer service by improving the management of contact with, and damage to, overhead lines and poles.

    NIA SSEPD 0021 Thermal Imaging Observation Techniques for Underground Cable Networks (TOUCAN)
    This project investigates a technical method using thermal imaging solutions as complementary tools in the context of locating underground cable faults in the power distribution network.

    Expected outcomes - The project will assess as complementary tools range of thermal imaging devices will be successfully evaluated as to their ability to locate or assist in locating underground cable faults and in which conditions. Practical comparisons will be made between the performance of low cost devices with that of higher specification equipment. Substantiated recommendations will be made on whether or not there are benefits in equipping field operatives with thermal imaging cameras.

    NIA SSEPD 0023 Fault Passage Indicators for SEF

    A technical method is proposed and it involves carrying out tests on a revised Fault Passage Indicators from Bowden Brothers which has been modified to detect Sensitive Earth Faults (SEF) faults down to 4A. The tests will be performed at the Power Networks Demonstration Centre (PNDC) in Cumbernauld to ensure that the revised device has significantly improved sensitivity over our current range of FPIs.  

    Expected outcomes - This project will be successful if we are able to determine the ability of the revised FPI to reduce CMLs due to SEF faults.

    NIA SSEPD 0024 Network Optimisation Project

    The project aims to address the problem of under-grounding overhead lines in the trial site. In order to do so, the method will utilise  an optimisation tool in order to produce optimal routes for under-grounding the overhead lines.  

    Expected outcomes -  The project will be considered a success if it can determine whether the optimisation tool offered by the selected supplier can result in more cost effective options for the under-grounding of overhead lines, in comparison to traditional network planning approaches.

    NIA SSEPD 0025 Applied Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM)

    This project seeks to investigate potential improvements of efficiency, safety and environmental impact through the use of Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM). IVM is the practice of promoting desirable, low-growing plant species beneath overhead lines. Combined with occasional herbicide use, they are expected to suppress taller, woody species and so reduce the need for clearance work, reduce the frequency of re-visits; and replace chainsaw and mulcher techniques. IVM offers a safe, environmentally sound, and low cost approach to maintaining the necessary clearance distances.

    Expected outcomes - The success of the project will be defined by the following outcomes: Identification of the extent to which IVM can control trees returning and how effective it is as a tool to maintain regulatory standards around power lines. The project will determine if IVM is a cost effective method in the UK.

    NIA SSEPD 0026 Management of Plug-in-Vehicle Uptake on Distribution Networks
    The purpose of this project is to define an ENA Engineering Recommendation (or equivalent) that will allow the range of future chargers to interact with a common device located in the local distribution substation for the purpose of load management on the network.  

    Expected outcomes - The success criteria is defined as, industry accepted solution for managing PIV uptake on distribution networks that will avoid significant infrastructure costs or disruption. Industry accepted customer messaging strategy and recommendations for implementation.

    NIA SSEPD 0027 Low Cost LV Substation Monitoring
    To develop and test a representative quantity of low cost substation monitoring devices from a number of different manufacturers. These will be deployed in a selection of secondary substations and their measurements integrated with a central data centre using GPRS communications. This will be in order to allow informed decisions to be made by network planners and other staff with respect to operational decisions, network planning and customer service.  

    Expected outcomes - This project will be deemed successful if it can determine the technical and financial viability of low cost substation LV monitoring equipment in comparison with traditional higher cost equipment.

    NIA SSEPD 003 Network Damage Reporter

    The aim of the project is to determine the viability of using a smartphone application to allow damage to be reported quickly by members of the public to a DNO service centre.

    Expected outcomes - Develop new procedures and processes to make use of the data submitted by users, such that the fault report submitted is integrated into the company fault management system. Develop a publicity strategy to publicise the availability of the app. Evaluate the benefit to the utility of fault reporting using smartphones.

    NIA SSEPD 005 33kV parade Working
    The innovative activity that this project will trial is the ability to carry out live line working on 33kV (EHV – Extra High Voltage) overhead lines. This would be an advancement on the current practice of 11kV (HV-High Voltage) Live Line Working.

    Expected outcomes - The success of this project will be defined by being able to demonstrate that 33kV hot glove work can be completed safely and with appropriate justification. This could allow maintenance work to be undertaken without the need for outages.
    NIA SSEPD 006 Impact of Electrolysers on the Distribution Network

    To design and test an operational system for the safe, efficient operation of an electrolyser connected to the distribution network and establish a commercial framework for carrying out trials.  To allow us to assess impacts of a large scale electrolyser on the network and produce a technical design for the control system which will allow a full range of trials to be undertaken.

    Expected outcomes -Identification of the extent to which an electrolyser can be controlled to minimise its impact on the network and if it can be used as a tool to manage issues caused by other disruptive technologies.

    NIA SSEPD 007 Field Team Support Tool
    The project will use a standards based Common Information Model (CIM) to allow the different sources of data held within the company to be fed out to a tablet, and for data sent from the tablet to update the data sources.  

    Expected outcomes - Evaluate the usability of the tablet. Show back end applications being updated from the tablet, and the new data passed back to the tablet and displayed. Demonstrate that the system can cope with the required level of traffic to and from the CIM. Demonstrate the security of the device, and the ability to delete the device from server control, and delete access to the application remotely.


    This project aims to better understand what advanced Pole Mounted Reclosers (PMRs) can achieve when combined with distributed intelligence, to see whether customer outages can be reduced.

    Expected outcomes - To evaluate the year-round performance of this distribution automation technology, in terms of communications performance, behaviour during faults; and impact on CI/CMLs. Consider the suitability of the communications technology for any other applications of high data rate digital radio communications in the utility sector, at the frequencies allowed in the UK. Quantify the commercial benefits of Intelliteam technology for the distribution business and so provide the information needed to determine whether it is advantageous to deploy it elsewhere on the network.
    NIA SSEPD 009 Automated Loop Restoration

    This project will carry out a technical trial of the loop reconnection system developed by S&C Electric  as this does not rely upon communications links for effective operation.

    Expected outcomes - Determine the impact on network performance delivered by the automated loop restoration methodology on the trial network sections.

    NIA SSEPD 010 Mobile Generator Re-sync at 11kV and 33kV
    A mobile, trailer mounted Circuit Breaker (CB) has been developed and trialled in SSEN under a previous IFI project which has successfully proven the concept, but the methodology needs further development to ensure that it is fit for purpose. This project will develop a technical methodology utilising the installation of a 33kV pole mounted CB using live line techniques which can be used at all distribution voltages from 11kV to 33kV on poles with Air Break Switches.  

    Expected outcomes - Determine the technical and operational viability of the proposed methodology. Quantify the savings in CIs and CMLs which could be saved by the use of this technique. Determine the commercial viability of applying this methodology across the SSEN license areas.

    NIA SSEPD 011 ACCESS – Local Constraint Management

    The ACCESS project will look to manage the output from a 400kW hydro generator with approximately 600kW of new controllable demand being installed in up to 100 homes. 

    Expected outcomes - The deployment of a successful trial that informs new technical and commercial standards. The ACCESS commercial model allows small-scale generation to connect to the network when capacity is at its limit.

    ACCESS is being delivered by Community Energy Scotland and the following project partners: Mull and Iona Community Trust, SSE Energy Supply, Element Energy, VCharge UK Ltd, SSE Home Services and SSEN.

    NIA SSEPD 012 Network Resilient Zone Utilising Embedded Generation – Feasibility Study

    The project aims to determine the potential to improve the resilience of supply to remote communities by undertaking a feasibility study on the viability for the electricity supply to the community on the island of Gigha to be supported by the local embedded renewable generation. 

    Expected outcomes - The delivery of a study which determines the viability of options to permit the operation of a remote network in island mode.

    NIA SSEPD 013 Network Resilient Zone Utilising Standby Generation – Feasibility Study
    The proposal is to explore alternative ways of improving the resilience of supply to remote communities by undertaking a feasibility study on the viability for the village community at Arinagour on the Island of Coll to have a back up source of supply in the form of a standby generator.  

    Expected outcomes - The delivery of a study which determines the viability of options to improve network resilience to a remote village community by the provision of standby generation.

  • Low Carbon Networks Fund

    Tier 1 Projects - Completed projects
    • SSET1001 1MW Battery, Shetland
    • SSET1002 Demonstrating the benefits of monitoring LV network with embedded PV panels and EV charging point
    • SSET1003 Trial Evaluation of Domestic Demand Management Solutions (DDMS)
    • SSET1004 Honeywell I&C ADR - Demonstrating the Functionality of Automated Demand Response
    • SSET1005 LV Network Modelling and Analysis Environment
    • SSET1007 Orkney Energy Storage Park (Phase 1)
    • SSET1008 LV Network Connected Energy Storage
    • SSET1009 Trial of Orkney Energy Storage Park
    • SSET1010 Impact of Electrolysers on the Distribution Network

      Take a look at our Tier 1 projects here

    Tier 2 Projects - Projects in progress
    • SSET203 New Thames Valley Vision (NTVV)
    • SSET205 My Electric Avenue (MEA)
    • SSET206 Solent Achieving Value from Efficiency (SAVE)
    • Northern Isles New Energy System (NINES)