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Durham University

Smart Grid Laboratory


H2020 MSCA-RISE Project: Testing and Evaluating Sophisticated information and communication Technologies for enabling a smartEr grid (Testbed)

TESTBED is a major interdisciplinary project coordinated by Durham (Project Coordinator: Dr Hongjian Sun) that combines insights from three academic disciplines - Electronics Engineering, Power Engineering and Computing Sciences, to address the difficulties of data transmission in smart grids. The EU funded project will coordinate action of 5 Universities and 3 enterprises from EU and China, to build and test sophisticated ICT to facilitate the successful implementation of smart grid applications.

Smart grid technologies can significantly improve the efficiency, reliability, and economics of the production, transmission, and distribution of electricity. In order to perform smart grid applications it is crucial to exchange and use huge amounts of information. However, in reality the exchange of information over multiple networks is unreliable, leading to unpredictable network Quality-of-Service and thus unreliable smart grid applications. This is made worse by the massive scale of data needed, including metering data, measurement data, structured or unstructured data, which makes it challenging to exploit useful information. There is an urgent need to solve the research problem: how to coordinate multiple networks to reliably transmit data, and then manage ICT system resources to efficiently extract useful information for supporting smart grid applications?

The main focus of the project is on improving the communication layer interoperability and the efficiency of data analytic. The project will develop and evaluate function-driven communication frameworks, as well as develop and verify new data integration and analytic techniques for enhancing power grid operations. These will be extensively tested and evaluated in 4 well-equipped Laboratories at Heriot-Watt university, C-EPRI, ICCS, and Chinese Academy of Sciences. These will support the European Smart Grid Architecture Model (SGAM) Framework and will complement and enhance International Standards.

TESTBED Project: Research and Innovation Directions

UK EPSRC project: Towards Joint Power-Communication System Modelling and Optimisation for Smart Grid Application: Virtual Power Plant (TOPMOST)

The UK's electricity networks are serving millions of people everyday but now are facing a challenging future, with ageing infrastructure but increasing penetration of Renewable Energy Sources (RESs). As such, the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) has approved plans to spend £17bn for upgrading the UK's electricity networks till 2023 by using smarter technologies. As one of the most promising solutions, smart grid has attracted much attention, since it is capable of enabling bidirectional flows of energy and communications in the power grid infrastructure, that is crucial in improving the reliability, security, and efficiency of the electric systems and keeping the lights on at minimum cost to consumers.

In this project Dr Hongjian Sun, working with project partners Sunamp Limited (an innovation leader in the field of Thermal Storage) and Intel Corporation Ltd (the computing and smart technology innovators), will be focused on developing the key smart grid application, Virtual Power Plant (VPP). This is designed to aggregate the capacity of many diverse distributed energy resources (DERs) and flexible demands to create a single operating profile - the single "virtual power plant" which will help balance supply and demand in real time. To facilitate VPP, both optimisation algorithms and communication technologies play a significant role, but the full potential of VPP has been hampered by the lack of joint power-communication system models and the thorough analysis of the impact of communication system imperfections to optimisation algorithms. The project will develop better understandings of these two systems operating with close interactions in VPP, more advanced methods in the design of VPP, and implement a hardware testbed of VPP with two-way real-time communication capability in Durham Smart Grid Laboratory. These could potentially lead to more efficient management of RESs and flexible demands, ultimately to improved operational efficiency of power grids for system operators and to reduced cost for consumers. Perhaps most importantly, however, is that this research will enable us to begin asking how we shall optimise the performance of smart grid technologies, considering not only power systems but also realistic communication systems, thus encouraging multidisciplinary research and cross-fertilising both fields.

TOPMOST Project: Application Scenario

EU H2020 Project: SmarterEMC2

The international consortium (1/1/2015-31/12/2017) led by Intracom Telecom (Greece) includes Durham University (Work Package 5 Leader Dr Hongjian Sun), Institute of Communications and Computer Systems (Greece), Thales Italia, Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e Computadores do Porto (Portugal), Aydem Electricty Distribution (Turkey), Electricity Distribution Services (Turkey), Aalborg University, Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe, Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator and Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (Greece).

Background and Aim

Power systems undergo massive technological changes due to the ever increasing concerns for environmental and energy sustainability. The increase of RES and DG penetration is one of the main goals in Europe in order to meet its environmental targets. However, these goals require new business models and can only be based on innovative ICT tools and communication infrastructure.

SmarterEMC2 project is funded by the European Commission's Horizon 2020 Framework Programme (H2020/2014-2020). It aims to implement ICT tools that support Demand Response and RES integration services, and facilitate open access in the electricity market. These tools take into account the Smart Grids Architecture Model (SGAM) as well as the future structure of the Distribution Network, as described by the relevant EU bodies and organizations. The project explores whether the existing telecommunication infrastructure is sufficient to support in mass scale the emerging business models and Smart Grid services. Also, the project supports standardization activities by proposing adaptation to data models of market-oriented standards (e.g. IEC 62325-351) and field level standards (e.g. IEC 61850).

This project is fully dedicated towards achieving a maximum of impact. To validate the proposed technologies, the project includes 3 real-world pilots and large-scale simulation in 3 laboratories. The former will demonstrate the impact of Demand Response and Virtual Power Plants services in real world settings, while the latter will reveal the ability of the communication networks to support massive uptake of such services.

For more information about SmarterEMC2 project, please refer to the project website:

Customer Led Network Revolution

A research project of the Durham Energy Institute.


The Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR) Project is the UK’s biggest smart grid project and at the forefront of the move towards a low-carbon economy. The £54 million scheme is an exciting collaboration between academia and business led by Northern Powergrid, the electricity distribution network operator for the North East and Yorkshire. The project is part-funded by the Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets’ (OFGEM) Low Carbon Networks Fund (LCNF). The other lead business partners in the project are British Gas and EA Technology. Durham University is providing academic rigour to the project through its multi-disciplinary Durham Energy Institute.

The transition to a low-carbon economy will present both opportunities and challenges for the electricity industry and its customers. The CLNR project seeks to develop cost-effective solutions that will ensure the UK electricity network is fit for the future and able to cope with mass uptake of electricity dependent, low-carbon technologies, such as solar panels, electric vehicles and heat pumps.

The project is trialling innovative new smart grid technology on the Northern Powergrid electricity network, as well as creating thousands of smart-enabled homes across the North East and Yorkshire, to give customers more choice and flexibility over the way they use and generate electricity.

Knowledge gained from the project will be shared with other distribution network operators and the wider energy industry; it will provide clear guidance on how to address key energy issues via the deployment of smart grid technologies and customer interventions.

More information on CLNR project impact

Find out about CLNR project resources

For further information on the CLNR project visit the project website at

PhD Research Project: Multi-agent Distributed Control in Power Systems

Background and Aim

Integration of new energy technologies (such as photovoltaics or electric cars) into legacy low-voltage networks requires a smart approach. This project involves examining forms of location data and properties of electric distribution networks, and their application within a multi-agent distributed control system. It demonstrates that a self-organising network of distributed energy resource controllers can derive network topology information that may be used for making smart control decisions. The methodology includes controller hardware operating on a network that runs in closed-loop operation with real-time distribution network simulation.

PhD Research Project: Distributed Control Methods for Integrating Renewable Generations and ICT Systems

Background and Aim

Due to the variability of intermittent renewable generations, it becomes extremely challenging to control and maintain the voltage profile. For example, integrating a large number of renewable generations in the distribution network would generate two-direction power flow that leads to higher level of voltage fluctuation. This project aims to develop adaptive decentralized control algorithms to control the voltage of distribution networks by managing the reactive power output of renewable generations. It will focus on the low voltage distribution network, jointly model power systems and ICT systems, analyze the impacts of information exchanging in the communication system to the power system, and then design efficient decentralized control schemes with practical ICT system constraints.

PhD Research Project: Cooperative Integration of Distributed Generations to Distribution Grids

Background and Aim

Unordered integration of multiple distributed generations to the distribution grids may result in voltage distortion and fluctuation. The reliability and stability of such power systems may be improved by developing cooperative integration strategies. The objective of this project is to improve the voltage stability, thus the reliability and stability of power systems when many distributed generations are connected. The project will consider the use of PMUs for extracting the relevant information, compressive sensing approach to compress measurement data, and the multi-agent system to realize the efficient integration of distributed generations.

PhD Research Project: Wireless Power Transfer for Charging Electric Vehicles

Background and Aim

Electric vehicles (EVs) are expected to be a key technology for realising low carbon footprint. However, the cruising range of EVs are highly limited due to the cable charging constraints, leading to reduced mobility. This project aims to remove aforesaid constraint, and extend the cruising range of EVs by the use of wireless power transfer technologies. The project is training a group of research postgraduates for developing an intelligent wireless EV charging system. The main tasks include: the design of wireless power transfer coils and circuit, the charging algorithm design, the wireless communication system design, and the intelligent control at the smart grid lab.

PhD Research Project: Communication System Design for Supporting Smart Grid Applications

Background and Aim

To dynamically balance power supply and demand, smart grid will require two-way information flow, i.e., one direction is from power suppliers to consumers mainly for realizing the control purpose, and another direction is from consumers to power suppliers to report energy consumption data. This project aims to examine the best communication infrastructure to support wide range of smart grid applications. The effects of information loss, delay, and cyber attack in the ICT system will be taken into account. In addition, the project will investigate nonintrusive load monitoring mechanisms that identify different types of loads to support demand response programs.

PhD Research Project: Smart Pricing Schemes for Demand Side Management in Smart Grids

Background and Aim

To encourage active participation of consumers in demand response programs, it is crucial to determine appropriate electricity pricing schemes in smart grids. This project aims to design smart pricing schemes to enhance demand side management functionalities. It will adopt multi-objective optimization approaches that consider objectives of various market actors in smart grids. The Pareto optimal solution will be obtained to solve multi-objective optimization problems. The privacy concerns of consumers will be addressed by investigating new privacy preservation and protection schemes.