Advanced voltage control for energy conservation in distribution networks

  • Luis Daniel Gutierrez Lagos

Student thesis: Phd


The increasing awareness on the effect of carbon emissions in our planet has led to several countries to adopt targets for their reduction. One way of contributing to this aim is to use and distribute electricity more efficiently. In this context, Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR), a well-known technique that takes advantage of the positive correlation between voltage and demand to reduce energy consumption, is gaining renewed interest. This technique saves energy by only reducing customer voltages, without relying on customer actions and, therefore, can be controlled by the Distribution Network Operator (DNO). CVR not only brings benefits to the electricity system by reducing generation requirements (fewer fossil fuel burning and carbon emissions), but also to customers, as energy bill reductions. The extent to which CVR can bring benefits mainly depends on the customers load composition and their voltages. While the former dictates the voltage-demand correlation, the latter constraints the voltage reduction that can be applied without violating statutory limits. Although CVR has been studied for many years, most of the studies neglect the time-varying voltage-demand characteristic of loads and/or do not assess end customer voltages. While these simplifications could be used to estimate CVR benefits for fixed and limited voltage reductions, realistic load and network models are needed to assess the performance of active CVR schemes, where voltages are actively managed to be close to the minimum limit. Moreover, distribution networks have been traditionally designed with limited monitoring and controllability. Therefore, CVR has been typically implemented by adopting conservative voltage reductions from primary substations, for both American and European-style networks. However, as new infrastructure is deployed in European-style LV networks (focus of this work), such as monitoring and on-load tap changers (OLTCs), the opportunity arises to actively manage voltages closer to end customer (unlocking further energy savings). Although these technologies have shown to effectively control voltages in LV networks, their potential for CVR has not been assessed before. Additionally, most CVR studies were performed in a context where distributed generation (DG) was not common. However, this has changed in many countries, with residential photovoltaic (PV) systems becoming popular. As this is likely to continue, the interactions of residential PV and CVR need to be studied. This thesis contributes to address the aforementioned literature gaps by: (i) proposing a simulation framework to characterise the time-varying voltage-demand correlation of individual end customers; (ii) developing a process to model real distribution networks (MV and LV) from DNO data; (iii) adopting a Monte Carlo-based quantification process to cater for the uncertainties related to individual customer demand; (iv) assessing the CVR benefits that can be unlocked with new LV infrastructure and different PV conditions. To accomplish (iv), first, a simple yet effective rule-based scheme is proposed to actively control voltages in OLTC-enabled LV networks without PV and using limited monitoring. It is demonstrated that by controlling voltages closer to customers, annual energy savings can increase significantly, compared to primary substation voltage reductions. Also, to understand the effect of PV on CVR, a centralized, three-phase AC OPF-based CVR scheme is proposed. This control, using monitoring, OLTCs and capacitors across MV and LV networks, actively manages voltages to minimize energy consumption in high PV penetration scenarios whilst considering MV-LV constraints. Results demonstrate that without CVR, PV systems lead to higher energy imports for customers without PV, due to higher voltages. Conversely, the OPF-based CVR scheme can effectively manage voltages throughout the day, minimising energy imports for all customers. Moreover, if OLTCs at secondary substations are available (and managed in coordination with the primary substation OLTC), these tend to regulate customer voltages close to the minimum statutory limit (lower tap positions), while the primary OLTC delivers higher voltages to the MV network to also reduce MV energy losses.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJoseph Mutale (Supervisor) & Luis(Nando) Ochoa (Supervisor)


  • Voltage control
  • Network operation
  • Low voltage
  • PV systems
  • Conservation Voltage Reduction (CVR)
  • On-load tap changers (OLTC)
  • Distribution Networks
  • Optimal power flow (OPF)

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