Britain's power system (the case for a system architect)

This briefing paper, the third publication in the IET’s Power Networks Joint Vision series, has been designed to accompany face to face discussion of the IET’s system architect proposals with key stakeholders in industry and Government.

The power grid is starting to migrate from traditional centrally managed and largely passive operation, to a highly distributed and more complex architecture.  These changes are being driven by government policies for clean, low-carbon and efficient energy, resulting in new technologies, services and behaviours.  Examples are smart meters, smarter grids, home energy displays, demand management, community energy, new renewables, electric vehicles and more international interconnections.  The performance of the power system is already experiencing change and it is essential to maintain supply security while ensuring that innovations deliver real benefits to consumers.

Today’s technical governance arrangements are too fragmented to manage the seamless integration of numerous smart systems.  The IET’s expert group has examined best practices in other sectors and has concluded we must address the mechanisms for whole-system integration. Standard practice elsewhere is to ensure end to end thinking by having a System Architect function to ensure effective design interfaces across multiple parties. This is about creating a mechanism for integrating complex systems in a liberalised sector; it is not a proposition for a power sector ‘Chief Engineer’.

For background on the IET’s Power Network Joint Vision expert group see www.theiet.org/pnjv