In the future there may be increasing strain on the distribution network delivering electricity to consumers. This strain arises through increased demand for domestic electricity (driven by electric vehicles and electric heat pumps) and as increased penetration of domestic solar photovoltaic creates electricity flows travelling back up the distribution network. Many of the options to mitigate this strain on the network require costly network upgrades, but there is also the potential to ‘free up’ capacity in the distribution network by relaxing the existing limits placed on the voltage of domestic electricity. This is potentially a low cost option.

Existing literature suggests that a wider range of domestic electricity voltage is technically feasible with only limited impact on consumers. While feasible from an engineering perspective, it is possible that a proportion of consumers may experience increased failure or malfunction of electronic devices. Given this potential it is unclear whether consumers will accept change to UK voltage regulations.

In order to understand likely consumer responses to change in domestic voltage quality it may help to explore the available evidence on public attitudes to voltage quality, and other aspects of changing electricity provision.

The review is structured around the central research question:

To what extent does the existing evidence support the premise that consumers will accept change to domestic voltage regulations?

To inform this project, the TPA team co-funded the working paper below together with the ‘Transformation of the Top and Tail of Energy Networks’ (TTaT), an Engineering and Physical Research Council (EPSRC) Grand Challenge research programme. The working paper draws upon a pilot study exploring consumer experiences and attitudes to appliance malfunction, which aimed to establish prior knowledge about voltage, and understanding of the Distribution Network Operator’s (DNO) role in supplying power and managing power quality.’ Outputs from this project currently include a scoping note outlining the project and approach, and a working paper.