Networks trialling motorsport inspired technology to cut generator emissions

Three cleaner fuels are to be trialled in mobile electricity generators used to power homes, in a move towards cleaner air and transition to net zero emissions.

UK Power Networks will use lower emission fuels to replace diesel in generators. The industry-first project will see homes and businesses in Kent use the alternative fuel in generators used to power them during essential network maintenance and repairs.

Britain’s first hybrid glycerine generator will be tested in the ‘Cleaner Engines’ innovation project based on cutting-edge technology used in electric motorsport to avoid recharging electric race cars using diesel. The trial will also compare the reliability, performance and emissions of hybrid generators fuelled by Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG).

To reduce engine noise and improve air quality, the cleaner fuel engines also have batteries which can charge during the day so they can run quietly at night. The glycerine and HVO generators will also use solar panels to charge the battery.

Portable generators are used to keep power flowing when undertaking repairs on the networks as well as after severe storms, when they help get the power back on for customers quickly, while engineers repair damaged cables.

Residents will be able to spot the new low emission trial generators, supplied by Aquafuel Research Ltd and Energy Solutions (UK) Ltd, by their distinctive green colour. The HVO and glycerine generators are expected to reduce carbon emissions by approximately 87% and the LPG by approximately 42%.

Ian Cameron, Head of Customer Service and Innovation at UK Power Networks says, “We are designing and testing new types of generators to find out which produce the greatest reduction in emissions and help us lower our carbon footprint.

“This project includes collaboration to help electricity network operators across Britain learn how to reduce reliance on diesel, understand safe storage and handling procedures needed for large-scale use and support the drive to achieve a better environment.”

Early estimates show that replacing 50 diesel-fuelled generators with a mixture of alternative-fuelled hybrid generators could save 251 tonnes of CO2e every year, equivalent to about 289 London-New York return flights, plus hundreds of thousands in fuel costs and reduced maintenance over a five-year period.

The first alternative fuel generators using HVO have been used to supply electricity to a customer’s home while repairs were carried out to their electricity supply cable. The trial will continue until February 2023 when results and customer feedback will be published.

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