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National Grid ESO to Deliver Carbon-Free Electricity in the UK

Machine learning will help the transition to renewables by 2025.

By Sasha Banks-Louie | February 2020

National Grid ESO to Deliver Carbon-Free Electricity in the UK

For the electricity grid to run entirely on renewable sources of energy, the power industry needs to fundamentally change the way it operates. Here’s just one example: It needs better predictions of how much solar and wind power will be generated on a given day.

“It’s easy to fulfill demand for energy when weather patterns are the same, day in and day out, but that’s unrealistic,” says James Kelloway, energy intelligence manager for National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), the company that balances supply and demand in real time on Great Britain’s electricity system. “We have to work with all sorts of unknown variables that can shift from one moment to another.”

Kelloway is part of a team of international data scientists at National Grid ESO that’s working to improve these predictions.

James Kelloway, energy intelligence manager for National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO)

Using machine learning algorithms and high-performance cloud computing capacity, the team is building models that constantly monitor patterns in clouds (the meteorological kind), precipitation, pollution, and sunlight and then correlate those elements with solar panel metering data to infer the balance of electricity supply and demand.

National Grid ESO’s goal is to be able to run the UK electricity system entirely on renewable sources by 2025 by capturing and distributing energy from wind and the sun at times when weather conditions permit. That capability requires knowing where power is needed, where it’s available, and how to deliver it.

The aptly named platform for energy forecasting, or PEF, algorithm provides National Grid ESO’s control center with near-real-time insight into how many megawatts of power are needed and where. PEF runs on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, using eight Nvidia V100 Tesla GPU cards. “Oracle Cloud Infrastructure allows us to process tens of thousands of satellite images and data models so that we can train our algorithms very quickly,” Kelloway says. “It’s one of the best platforms in the world for the type of work we do.”

Kelloway will speak at Oracle OpenWorld Europe during the anchor keynote on Thursday, February 13, about National Grid ESO’s efforts to provide an electricity grid that can operate carbon-free by 2025.

An organic hay farmer and writer, Sasha Banks-Louie is a content strategist at Oracle, covering sales, marketing, and customer service issues, as well as startups and fast-growing companies.

Photographs courtesy of National Grid ESO