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Electricity Flexibility and Forecasting System

Funding mechanismNetwork Innovation Competition (NIC)
DurationJanuary 2018 - January 2021
Estimated expenditure3.8 million
Research areaStrategic
  • West Midlands
  • East Midlands

December 2019

EFFS, along with the TRANSITION and FUSION projects, has mapped out how the projects will contribute to the proposed Open Networks 2020 work packages.

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December 2019

EFFS, along with the TRANSITION and FUSION projects, has mapped out how the projects will contribute to the proposed Open Networks 2020 work packages.

Project Description

The transition from DNO to DSO will involve performing new functions which will in turn require new systems to support them.  This project is to explore in detail the additional functionality required as a DSO, to evaluate the potential options and implement systems that provide that new functionality.   

This will include:

(i)    Creating weather adjusted forecasts for load and generation at different time frames and adjusting these for planned flexibility service despatch in order to determine the nature, duration and frequency of expected constraints;
(ii)    Determining the optimum set of actions to manage potential constraints including evaluating the suitability of flexibility services;
(iii)    Communicating flexibility services requirements to the market and creating commercial agreements for those services;
(iv)    Executing flexibility services including arming, execution and validation of delivery and payment; and  
(v)     Sharing information with interested parties to avoid conflicts in flexibility service use.

The project will consider the optimum degree of integration with existing systems and whether simplified alternatives to full optimised power flow analysis can provide sufficiently reliable information.

EFFS will work closely with the ENA Open Networks project which is specifying the functional requirements for DSO operation and the likely data exchanges. EFFS is also working together with FUSION and TRANSITION, NIC projects by Scottish Power Energy Networks and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks respectively that are also supporting DSO transition. 


We expect the roles and responsibilities of DNOs to change as they transition towards a Distribution System Operator (DSO) function, reflecting the increasing impact of low carbon generation and the decarbonisation of heat and transport.   

The increased amount of renewable generation is expected to result in a greater need for balancing services by National Grid as the System Operator, with much of these services being provided by customers connected to the distribution network.  

At the same time the DNOs are looking to use flexibility services to defer or avoid reinforcement where this is economically advantageous.   This raises new challenges for DNOs in terms of how they determine, procure and enact their long term and short term requirements for flexibility services and how the various parties supplying or using flexibility services coordinate with each other.   

Processes and tools will be required for: 

  • Long term flexibility service requirements evaluation
  • Short term flexibility service requirements evaluation, and service triggering
  • Data exchange with other flexibility service providers and users to reduce third party impacts and for conflict management

EFFS will contribute to the latter two requirements, focussing on operational timeframes, but supporting analysis up to 6 months ahead. 


The project will deliver a practical robust and accurate system capability that will enable a DNO to actively manage the provision of flexibility services necessary for transition to becoming a DSO.
Having specified requirements, the project will consider the technical options for delivering the required functionality.  The selected technical option will then be built to support a short trial, to demonstrate that the software can support the functionality specified.  

To minimise costs and timescales, we plan to use customers that are already participating in providing flexibility services to our other projects in Cornwall and the East Midlands, and/or customers already providing flexibility services to EDF.  Similarly EFFS does not include the creation of a flexibility trading platform, as there are several other projects looking to create such platforms.

This trial focuses on validating the algorithms and processes within the software work so that the blueprint can be adopted by other DNOs. 

This will enable a speedier, simpler DSO transition. 


The project method is to deliver a robust DSO system capability, by:

1 – Forecasting Evaluation

Determine optimal forecasting arrangements for a variety of time-frames from a few hours to several weeks ahead. This considers the sources of data, methods of forecasting, accuracy of forecasts and critical timings for other processes e.g. gate closure.   It considers available load forecasts provided by National Grid, whether combining forecasts is beneficial and options for improvement such as within-day correction. This will consider both load and generation of various forms and will determine how to correct the forecasts for planned operation of flexibility services, known operation of export limitation systems etc. This work will be procured from an external academic/expert supplier.

2 – Co-ordination

Builing on the work by the Open Networks, EFFS will determine optimal arrangements for co-ordination and conflict resolution with other parties using flexibility services. This could include different providers e.g. direct provision or via a third party (aggregator or supplier), or price signals for real-time trading, advanced notification, dynamic amendment of systems e.g. ANM or merit order.

3 – Determine Requirements & Technical Specification

Incorporate the learning from Methods 1 & 2 and the output from the Open Networks Project to finalise the set of functional requirements for a DSO for real-time operation and short term planning, that the EFFS system needs to support.

A technical assessment will then consider the way in which those functional requirements can be supported, looking at the various options for adapting the functionality of existing systems and introducing new systems.  This will determine whether a single system is required for long and short term requirements or whether these are better managed separately. This will maximise the use of open standards and modular solutions using data available to all DNOs. DSOs may take on further responsibilities such as local network balancing on behalf of the TSO. Any proposed systems should be able to support the potential range of DSO activities and will involve data exchanges with third parties including triggering services. 

4 – Implementation & Testing

The systems specified by Method 3 will then be built, implemented and tested to prove their suitability. Method 4 is anticipated to involve development of AMT Sybex Networkflow software, part of the Affinity suite.

EFFS Project Overview

You can view a short video overview of the EFFS Project here or to read the Project Overview click here to download the PDF. 

  • Benefit 1 – Deferral or avoidance of conventional reinforcement for a period of time will save money. 

    Work undertaken by UK Power Networks as part of the Smarter Network Storage project established that 10.8% of the 4,800 primary substation groups across GB could benefit from flexible solutions, notably DSR and storage, enabling on average 3MW of traditional reinforcement to be deferred for up to 10 years.

    It is therefore reasonable to argue that over 10 years £51.1m (10% of the expected general reinforcement cost within WPD at 2017/18 costs) of conventional reinforcement could be substituted with a smart flexibility services capability as the EFFS method will provide if rolled out across the WPD licensed areas.  The analysis undertaken and provided in Appendix 1 shows that savings of £33.8m in the 10 years to 2030 would be generated and £71.6m by 2050.  By rolling this method out across the whole of the GB network would deliver savings of £114.4m by 2030 and £242.6m by 2050.

    Benefit 2 – Additional flexibility in fault restoration

    In areas where the EFFS system and method have been rolled out and delivering benefit as above, an additional benefit available to the network will be the option to make use of available local flexible capacity following a network fault.  Ordinarily when a fault occurs at a local substation, network engineers will look to restore network capacity by reconfiguring the network through switching operations. Here, suitable flexible capacity would be utilised in addition to these switching routines in order to restore customers as quickly as possible. Using available flexibility in this way, by using generation and DSR to restore networks that would otherwise not be restored until repairs were complete, would improve restoration times. This may be especially pertinent in extreme cases where the number of concurrent faults exceeds the design assumptions.  It is hoped that the high-volume testing of the EFFS system, a bench exercise including many simulated flexibility service providers, can give insights into the impact of differing levels of flexibility on restoration times to inform the potential review of p2/6 to consider the impact of flexibility services.  

    Benefit 3 – Reduced balancing costs via co-ordination with SO

    The EFFS system and method will share all trigger and arming notifications with National Grid, the National Transmission System Operator (SO) and potentially to any other party purchasing flexibility services that might be affected by DNO operations.  The benefit of this will be to ensure that any conflict between the TSO and the DSO are managed.  This will ensure that the TSO does not attempt to call on ancillary services that would create or worsen a constraint for DNOs. Resolving conflicts should minimise the overall costs for the system. 

    In addition, it will also ensure that services are not called that might have a major impact upon the flexible capacity requirement of the DSO.  For example, the TSO looking to manage national system frequency within a zone which is significantly capacity constrained could be very costly and may either result in a greater call on flexibility reserve or an ineffective management of system frequency. At present it is difficult to know the exact potential for conflict between DSO and other flexibility service users and this work will clarify the position and therefore the estimate of benefits.  Anecdotal conversations have suggested that in the Netherlands requests to use the same asset, were relatively frequent and that where the same asset was being sought by multiple parties, it was about a 50/50 split between the two parties wanting the asset to operate in the same way and wanting to operate the asset in different directions.

    Benefit 4 – Increased / faster renewables connections.

    The use of flexibility services via the EFFS method and system to facilitate customer connections could greatly increase both the speed and cost of providing the necessary connection.  Where a connection requires additional substation capacity, conventionally a substation upgrade would be required, for example, a new or upgraded transformer.  Using flexibility services might avoid this work for a period of time.

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