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UK to create a complete digital twin of its power grid to improve performance



When things are digitised you can model more scenarios faster and identify and fix problems before they occur, and this is the first project to create a digital twin of an entire power grid.


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National Grid, the UK’s major energy operator, has launched, in what it claims is a world first, a project to build a complete digital replica of the entire UK energy grid and “landscape,” which means it will be creating a whole new virtual environment to share data, and model and predict energy scenarios that support the decarbonisation of the UK’s entire energy system. Needless to say it’s both ambitious and a huge undertaking.


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The Virtual Energy System as its known will be a digital twin of the UK’s existing physical energy system and will work in parallel with it to “enable an accessible, unified, real-time view of every part of the UK energy system.”

This virtual environment will create the ability to generate insights and new ideas and model solutions to cut real-world carbon emissions, supporting the transition to net zero while delivering long-term value to industry and consumers.

The programme comes at a time when the country’s energy system is undergoing its most significant ever transition, and here’s how it will work … The development of the Virtual Energy System will begin with an open framework, with agreed access, operations and security protocols, and then over time, this will be populated by existing and new digital twins – replicas of physical components of the energy system. Each digital twin will contribute to and access real-time data on the status and operation of other elements of the system, and then this layered data will be used to generate insights, and a virtual environment through which to innovate ideas, with the potential to transform the system and support the transition to net zero.


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Fintan Slye, Executive Director of National Grid ESO said; “The journey towards a carbon free future has already begun, if the UK is to meet its 2050 net zero target, it’s vital the whole energy industry works towards decarbonisation together.”

“As we evolve and transition to a greener future, we’ll need to respond to a range of future challenges. And how we innovate and adapt the energy system will require a range of tools, which is where the Virtual Energy System comes in – a shared, digital national asset to help optimise the route to net zero.

“This is an ambitious world-first programme, and we can’t build it alone. We need to come together, as an industry, to help turn this vision into a reality if we are to realise a sustainable energy network for the future.”


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National Grid will be officially launching the project at an industry event later this year, and then will be hosting a free one day online conference on 25th April, providing an opportunity for the energy industry and wider stakeholders to find out more about the programme and how to get involved with its design and development. Panellists include Ofgem, BEIS, Energy Digitalisation Taskforce, Energy Systems Catapult and more.

An industry consultation will be launched in the coming weeks, and future industry events will be announced as the programme develops on the Virtual Energy System webpage.

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