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What does the ESO do with electricity?
Most people know that the Electricity System Operator (ESO) keeps homes and businesses supplied with the electricity they need, whenever it’s needed.

Most people know that the Electricity System Operator (ESO) keeps homes and businesses supplied with the electricity they need, whenever it’s needed. But that’s just one part of what we do – we actually have three roles, and all are equally important. 

  • Control centre operations 

  • Market development 

  • System insight, planning and network development 

Watch our video to learn more about what we do:

Our roles and our business plan

Control centre operations 

We ensure a reliable and secure system operation. We move high-voltage electricity around the grid and pass it to local distribution network operators (DNOs). The DNOs then reduce the voltage and distribute electricity to homes and businesses around the country. We don’t generate or sell electricity – that’s down to other companies.  

Through our control room, we make sure that electricity supply and demand is balanced without interruption 24/7.  

Our experts work round the clock to ensure that the right amount of electricity is where it’s needed, when it’s needed.  

Making sure the supply of electricity from the market always matches demand is called ‘balancing’ the system, and it’s all managed in our national control room.  

Our control room experts have a set of tools at their disposal to help make this happen – the main one being the balancing mechanism. This requires continuous communication with the electricity market. We might need to ask generators to turn power up or down, or we might ask large electricity consumers ask them to increase or decrease demand.  

Occasionally, if we’re not able to match supply and demand through the normal mechanisms, we’ll send a more formal message to the electricity market to let them know.  

It’s all part of our role as the ESO, working with industry to ensure keep supply and demand in perfect balance.  

Market development and transactions 

We make sure the markets we participate in and operate are competitive, transparent and fair. Not only is this because it’s the right thing to do, but it also keeps costs as low as possible for consumers. 

System insight, planning and network development 

We make sure the networks we operate and the markets we serve are fully prepared for the future.  

When planning for the future, we must think about things like where our energy will come from and how we will operate a greener and cleaner system. 

Our Future Energy Scenarios (FES) combine industry expertise and insight to offer a glimpse of what the future of energy in the UK could look like. That way, the ESO and wider industry can best plan for what we need.  

We work with innovation partners to address challenges rising from the energy transition and to maximise benefits for the consumer and the electricity system.  

ESO projects like Network Option Assessment Pathfinders also look to tackle the challenges of the system carrying increasing amounts of energy generated from renewable and low carbon sources. 

Or our System Operability Framework which takes a holistic view of the changing energy landscape to assess the future operation of Britain's electricity networks.