A project looking to create a reactive power market for distributed energy resources (DERs) has started its first end-to-end live trial.

The Power Potential project – run by UK Power Networks (UKPN) and National Grid ESO – is aiming to enable DERs connected to the local electricity network to provide the only market-based reactive power source to the electricity system.

As such, the duo have started a live trial following on from a series of short trials involving individual generators.

The project uses a Distributed Energy Resources Management System (DERMS) developed by ZIV Automation, which has been integrated into UKPN’s control room.

Split into two parts, the project will include an eight-week technical trial with the generators followed by a 12 week trial of the live commercial markets. This is scheduled to finish in March 2021, with work to continue to explore how the local and national networks can collaborate further around reactive power if the trial is successful.

UKPN and National Grid ESO said they have built an end-to-end integrated system that can enable automated reactive power services, which in turn creates more capacity on the national transmission system and a potential income stream for generators such as wind, solar and battery storage.

In fact, Power Potential could enable the connection of up to an additional 4GW of local generation in the South East region of the UK, the duo said, as well as saving energy consumers over £400 million by 2050.

Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation at UK Power Networks said that the project is “arguably the most ambitious innovation project happening across the UK energy system right now”.

“Power Potential is truly transformative innovation because it’s fundamentally changing the way we do business and interact with the national transmission system. We’re creating a whole new market for renewable energy providers because it’s what they have asked us to do, and a way to reduce the cost of the whole electricity system to customers.”

The latest development in the project marks the first time the full system has been trialed in a live environment with multiple generators.

It is hoped it will help manage the increase in the volume of renewable energy connecting to distribution networks without breaching safe limits, with the south and East of England having seen a significant rise in distributed energy resources in the last decade.

According to UKPN, over 7GW of generators are now connected to its networks in London, the South East and East of England.

Dr Biljana Stojkovska, Power Potential project lead at National Grid ESO, said: “We look forward to the next stage of the project during which we’ll get some more detailed insight into what the trial data is telling us. And we cannot do this alone. Together with our project partners we’ll gain important knowledge to support future innovation in reactive markets and ancillary services.”