Whole electricity system

Find out how we are working with stakeholders to develop a smart, flexible electricity system that with deliver services more efficiently and help us meet carbon targets.

As Britain’s electricity system operator, we’re right at the heart of efforts to transform the way our energy networks operate.

The journey to creating an energy system fit for the future wouldn’t be possible without the close collaboration that’s happening with industry partners to help the transition. This is known as a whole electricity system approach.

Distribution system operation (DSO) – the key to a smart, flexible electricity system

What is distribution system operation (DSO)? It means the distribution network operators (DNOs) – who currently deliver electricity from the grid to homes and businesses – taking on more of a system operator role at a regional level. DNOs becoming DSOs is key to a smarter energy system and more efficient flexibility markets – and to achieving net zero.

Whilst we at the ESO do not have an ambition to be a DSO, we recognise the need to evolve to facilitate the transition to DSO. This will play a part in ensuring that we can achieve net zero emissions at the least cost to the consumer.

In April 2021, we published ‘Enabling the DSO transition,’ a consultation which shares our proposed vision for how we can support the DSO transition, and our draft version of a successful outcome by 2025. Strong collaboration across the industry will be pivotal to the success of the DSO transition, which is why we invited stakeholder feedback on our publication. The responses we received, and a summary document, can be found in the document library below.

Download Enabling the DSO transition

Operational visibility of Distributed Energy Resources (DER)

As well as DSO, we recognise that greater operational visibility of DER is a key enabler to ensuring Great Britain meets its net zero ambitions. We already have a level of visibility of DER, but we recognise going forwards that this will need to increase to understand more about the volumes and behaviour of connected DER to better plan and operate the transmission system. Critical to this visibility is the need for operational metering at a standard that works for all parties. In June 2022, we published our ‘Operational visibility of DER’ consultation, where we asked stakeholders for their views on our proposed guidance on our operational metering specifications going forwards.

Download Operational visibility of DER

The way we generate and use electricity is changing

This is driven by the challenges of decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation. Watch this video to see how considering the whole system will create consumer value and enable zero carbon operation.

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Share feedback on Enabling the DSO transition to Join our WES mailing list.

Let us know if you'd like to join our distribution system operation (DSO) mailing list to hear updates from the team.

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DSO transition webinar

Listen to our webinar to find out how National Grid ESO propose to support the transition to Distribution System Operation (DSO) to help achieve a smarter energy system.

Enabling the DSO transition

Read our responses to your questions from two Distribution System Operation webinars we've hosted recently.

Programmes and projects

Facilitating the transition to a smarter, flexible electricity system.

Here are some initiatives already underway that are helping us meet whole system outcomes.

Regional Development Programmes (RDP)

RDPs look at the whole electricity system for areas of development for additional capacity, reduce constraints and open up new revenue streams for market participants. 

Find out more

Power Potential

This project aims to create a new reactive power market for distributed energy resources (DER) and generate additional capacity on the network.

Find out more

Open Networks

The Open Networks Programme has brought together the electricity grid operators in the UK and Ireland to work together to deliver transformational change and will continue to deliver change at a rapid pace. This includes driving standardisation, open flexibility markets, providing better visibility of data and working across gas and electricity networks to build an efficient energy system that leaves nobody behind. For more information, visit the open networks page using the link below.

Find out more

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Document library

Here you can find useful documents such as DSO Transition responses and archive papers.

Document library

Related articles

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ESO Innovation Strategy

ESO play a central role in overcoming the challenges associated with the transition to a zero carbon future. Innovation is another mechanism to help us meet these challenges.  Read our ESO Innovation Strategy document to find out more.

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Forward Plan

Our Forward Plan helps you understand what we aim to deliver over the course of a financial year, by setting out our ambitious plan of deliverables in three key activity areas: network development, markets and control centre operations.

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RIIO-2 Business Plan

RIIO-2 runs from April 2021 onwards and sets out price controls to determine the amount we can earn for the projects we deliver and the services we provide.

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Markets Roadmap to 2025

This roadmap sets out our ambitions, principles and process to transform our markets. It details our vision for response, reserve, thermal, reactive, stability, restoration, the Balancing Mechanism, and the Capacity Market.