Thursday November 10 2016

Northern Powergrid Invests 14m in Smart Technology to Keep Lights on for Customers

Filed Under:
News Release
Northern Powergrid

Northern Powergrid, the company responsible for keeping the lights on for 8 million people across the region, has invested £14m in innovative technology to help keep the power flowing for its customers.

The electricity distributor, which delivers power to 3.9 million homes and businesses across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, is using smart fuse technology to restore electricity supplies within three minutes for customers and locate the cause of a power cut more efficiently.

The BIDOYNG smart fuse, named after the spring-like sound it makes when activating, is being used to help monitor areas on the company’s underground cable network where customers have had one or more power cuts caused by an intermittent fault.

Intermittent faults can be happen if a cable becomes damaged and moisture gets inside the cable. This can be caused by a section detiorating over time or in situations where other construction work causes damage to the cable. When a fault like this happens, to protect the wider network the fuse in the substation powering that part of the network trips resulting in a power cut for local people.

Previously faults of this type could be frustrating for customers as when they happen the cable dries out and supplies are restored making it difficult for engineers to pinpoint the damage and carry out a permanent repair. The only option previously was to keep changing the fuse to restore power until the fault became permanent - but this meant more disruption for customers.

The smart fuse, made by Kelvatek, helps reduce this kind of impact on customers. Carrying two fuses, if the first fuse trips causing a power cut the second is automatically activated restoring power for customers within just three minutes. At the same time the technology sends information back to Northern Powergrid about the activation so it can investigate.

Using the information it gathers about the fault Northern Powergrid can try to calculate where it thinks the damage to the cable is – even down to a cable section servicing a handful of properties. This enables a Northern Powergrid team to visit the site and use further technology called a Sniffer to pinpoint quicker the exact location where a repair is needed.

Preventing the need to dig up along that entire section of cable, which can disrupt local communities, the Sniffer probe, made by EA Technology, is placed into small drill holes to sniff out the emissions that can be found underground when a cable is damaged and faults.

Similar to the principle of the game ‘Hot and cold’, the engineers try a number of points on the section identified by the smart fuse until the Sniffer finds an increased underground emission reading pinpointing the damage. While all this happens customer’s lights stay on and any permanent repair work can be planned more effectively and communicated to customers.

Mick Hickling, one of Northern Powergrid’s head of zones responsible for the rollout of the technology across the company, said: “This is a significant investment in state-of-the-art technology that works behind the scenes on our network for our customers. It delivers real benefits getting the lights on within three minutes for people who’ve had a power cut caused by an intermittent fault and helps us find low voltage network faults and maintain our network more effectively and efficiently.

“The smart fuse helps reduce disruption for our customers and the need for our engineers to repeatedly travel to substations to change fuses until a fault becomes permanent disrupting customers again. Instead it provides vital intelligence so our engineers can focus on proactively locating the fault, getting it permanently repaired for our customers with minimum disruption and improving the long-term reliability of the network that serves their home and local community.”

In addition to the benefits for customers, the fault-finding technology is expected to save the company around £1.7 million every year which can be reinvested back into improving the region’s power network which includes some 95,000 kilometres of overhead lines and underground cables and more than 63,000 substations. Northern Powergrid has 1,400 smart fuses available for use on its network and plans to invest in more in the future.

The technology is one of a number of ways the electricity distributor is improving services for customers and has delivered its best-ever performance standards for network reliability. To find out more visit to read the company’s latest annual performance report for customers and stakeholders.

Media Contacts

Northern Powergrid
Dawn Parlett
+44 191 787 7234