A consortium from the University of Birmingham, Durham University, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Northumbria aims to understand the performance and resilience of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) under severe climate conditions and develop AI-based solutions for optimum management of resources and tackling the issues. This project is one of the research studies awarded by UKRI to address AI for Net Zero problems.
DERs are small, modular energy generation and storage units, e.g., wind turbines, photovoltaics, batteries, and electric vehicles, that could be connected directly to the power distribution network. They are gaining popularity among domestic and industrial users. DERs play a critical role in achieving Net Zero. Over 1 million UK homes have solar panels, and with the green energy transition underway in the UK, tens of millions of DERs could be connected to the UK power grid by 2050.
Although DERs have many benefits, e.g., a reduced carbon footprint and improved energy affordability, they present complex challenges for network operators (e.g., low DER visibility, bi-directional power flow, and voltage anomalies), creating a significant barrier to Net Zero. Meanwhile, natural hazards and extreme events are an increasing threat not only to humans but also to power grid resilience - a direct impact is the power cuts, e.g., Storms "Dudley", "Eunice", and "Franklin" in February 2022 left over a million homes without electricity.
How best to manage millions of DERs is still an open question, especially for improving the grid resilience to natural hazards and extreme events, e.g., storms and heatwaves. This project will develop innovative physics-informed Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions for enabling Virtual Power Plants (VPP) capable of aggregating and managing many diverse DERs, improving decision-making for network operators and enhancing the grid resilience to natural hazards and extreme events. These could also lead to reduced energy bills for millions of UK energy consumers, fewer power cuts during extreme circumstances, greater adoption and more efficient management of DERs, and ultimately enable rapid progress towards Net Zero.