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Distributed Generation

Historically, the UK’s National Grid was designed with central dispatch in mind. This meant that electricity was centrally generated using large, typically coal-fired power stations, then dispatched to end users. The UK’s development of this model was replicated worldwide, and for decades it provided us with an extremely reliable energy system.

However, with better understanding now of the damage that fossil fuels, particularly coal, does to the environment, the way we generate electricity is changing rapidly. Instead of large, centralised generation, we are moving steadily towards a model of distributed generation, using large numbers of smaller generators spread across distribution networks.

While this has seen the UK energy sector drastically slash carbon emissions, it has presented a number of other challenges. Small-scale generation such as on-site solar or wind or various microgenerators, connect to the grid at distribution network level, rather than at the high-voltage transmission network level. This puts localised, lower voltage distribution infrastructure under far greater stress than it was initially designed for.

Rather than simply delivering power to end-users, distribution network operators (DNO) now have to balance incoming and outgoing power from a large number of end users. Depending on demand and generation conditions, this can vary massively. When both demand and generation are high, it can put more strain on infrastructure such as transformers than they are designed to handle.

This has steadily increased the risk of power disruption, as distribution networks are placed under increasing strain. It has also made new projects, both generation and high-demand equipment such as rapid EV charging, more challenging to implement. If your business site is located in an area that is already experiencing grid constraint, your DNO may refuse your application for EV charging or on-site generation outright over fears of causing localised disruption or even blackouts.

Distributed generation allows the effective creation of localised microgrids. This combines generation with power management technology, storage on a site-wide or area-wide basis. While generally operating connected to the larger grid, in the event of supply disruption or peak energy prices the microgrid is designed to be able to run in island mode, disconnected from the grid, indefinitely.

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