Shropshire Star

AI technology trialled to predict power outages caused by storms

ScottishPower Energy Networks described its Predict4Resilience project as ‘revolutionary’.

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Pylons repaired

A power company is trialling the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to predict faults in the electricity network so it can restore power to homes faster.

ScottishPower Energy Networks (SPEN) is using AI technology to better pinpoint potential faults caused by severe weather and ensure engineers and equipment are mobilised to tackle problems when – and even before – they occur.

The firm, which serves more than three million homes and businesses across the UK, has described the £5 million Predict4Resilience project as “revolutionary” as it will use AI to predict where outages could occur up to a week in advance.

The technology will use historic weather and fault data along with network asset and landscape information to develop machine learning models.

This will be combined with real-time weather forecasting to inform control room staff where bad weather will hit and what kind of damage to expect with improved accuracy.

The trial, which is believed to be a UK first, comes just a fortnight after Storm Babet knocked out supplies to hundreds of homes across Scotland.

Guy Jefferson, chief operating officer at SPEN, said: “Ahead of a severe weather event we mobilise hundreds of engineers, vehicles and generators, alongside thousands of pieces of other materials, so we are ready to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible.

“We know the disruption severe weather can bring to our customers and we are constantly investing in our network and investigating new technologies that could be used to keep this disruption to a minimum.

“Projects like Predict4Resilience offer us another tool to help inform our decision making during a storm and help to reduce the time it takes us to restore power, minimising the impact of severe weather on our customers and communities even further.

“Through collaboration with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution to expand our testing area, the trial phase of this project will provide us with robust learnings to meet our ambition of rolling this technology out across the UK.”

Downed power lines
Power outages regularly affect hundreds of properties during bad weather (PA)

SPEN is working with various partners on the technology, including the University of Glasgow, which is developing the AI methods that underpin the new forecasting capability, SSEN and management consulting firm Sia Partners.

The project secured £4.5 million from the Strategic Innovation Fund from energy regulator Ofgem and UK Research and Innovation, which supports ambitious and innovative projects to accelerate the transition to net zero.

Jethro Browell, a senior lecturer in statistics at the University of Glasgow, said: “We are excited to be working with a great team of partners to make our electricity networks more resilient in the face of climate change.

“This is a fantastic example of how the mathematical sciences can impact our everyday lives for the better.”

Sebastien Gerber, head of data science and AI in UK and Ireland at Sia Partners, said: “We’re proud to play such an integral role in Predict4Resilience and help create a more resilient network that minimises disruption and stress for customers, particularly for the vulnerable.

“We anticipate Predict4Resilience will bring about a range of significant financial, social and environmental benefits to the networks and their customers.”

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