Accelerating future control room innovation


As monitoring solutions become increasingly digital, networks are operated in increasingly flexible and unpredictable ways. In the face of the increasing prevalence of distributed generation and increasing electrical demand, the amount of information processed by control centres is in danger of becoming unwieldy for operators.

Project aims

Understand requirements for future control centre operations and assess technology options available to meet these requirements.

Develop an understanding of relationships between enhanced system automation, flexibility dispatch, and the need for ‘human in the loop’ to maintain system integrity.

Understand the role of the LV control engineer when there is a fully represented, flexible, and partially automated LV network control.

Investigate the amount of automation which could be implemented into a future control room and the impacts this could have on demands of control engineers.

Explore DNO/DSO control room options for the near future and the longer-term.

Understand the interactions of individual functions within a control room.

Look at options for developing a simulated environment to safely test and develop new control room solutions, including use of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Assess commercial options for the development of future control infrastructure.

PNDC role

By involving PNDC as the lead on workstreams 1, 2, and 3 of this project, project partners can collaborate via an intermediary, have access to expertise, and benefit from outsourcing research effort given the temporary nature of this investigation. In addition, PNDC has supported project partners in highlighting opportunities and preparing bids for further funding.

We began by preparing discussion points and setting up engagement activities held in collaboration with project partners and other interested parties. Aspirations and challenges highlighted during these exercises were methodically captured during a requirement gathering exercise. Functional requirements of a future control system were outlined, and corresponding non-functional requirements (the types of interfaces and their characteristics) have been explored.

Existing control centres’ variety and type of data sources have been described and compared to how these might change as operator’s transition toward a more active role as distribution system operators. At the same time, requirements associated with the application of machine learning techniques and other data analytics within future control systems are also considered.

Finally, these requirements have been formed into a preliminary concept solution architecture intended to encourage early discussion and promote possible considerations for further work.

The Future Control Room project key stakeholders are PNDC members, Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and UK Power Networks.


The outcomes of this project have been several reports that:

Outline the requirements of the control room from different stakeholders.

Provide some preliminary design specifications for the future control.

Disseminate the key findings (including a roadmap for the next phases).

The results from this project show that the Control Room will have to change radically and will need to incorporate several new enhanced functions including flexibility services, state estimation, and automation.



Project outputs have helped contribute to ED2 submissions being prepared and offered ideas that could form a basis for future control system research and innovation projects.

Long-term, the findings will contribute to a smooth transition from DNO to DSO, which in turn has positive impacts socially and environmentally on customers.

The project performed at PNDC informed infrastructure investment for DSOs in the Future Control Room; accelerating the evolution of the control room to enable transition to Net Zero in line with the UK government 2035 and 2050 targets.

1.6GW of flexibility has been unlocked in the UK since the beginning of 2021 and development of the future control (as outlined in this project) will support the government plans to grow domestic flexibility services in the UK, a market with an estimated value of up to £1.3B GDP per year.

Through a mixture of industry engagement and academic insight, this project has informed and accelerated the evolution of the DNO control room. The specifications and recommendations provided by the PNDC will influence DNO plans throughout RIIO-ED2 and beyond.

Stewart Reid, SSEN

What’s next?

The next steps in the development of the future Control Room are to use these project findings to develop an intelligent control system to enable flexibility service interaction with the control room.

Create a suitable test environment to enable DSO and vendors to develop new functionalities in the future.


Two conference papers are presently being written (titles to be finalised):

Future Control Room Architecture.

Future Control Room Data Interface & Machine Learning Requirements.

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