Innovation strategy

The ESO Innovation Strategy has been developed in consultation with industry and informed by the results of our Bridging the Gap work. It sets out how we need to innovate in 2021/2022 and where to focus our efforts to set us on the right path for 2025 and beyond.

Given our uniquely central position, we aim to facilitate innovation across the whole energy system. We know innovators outside our organisation will be leading the effort to solve the toughest problems we face as an industry, which is why we are increasing our focus on Open Innovation.

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ESO Innovation Strategy 2021-22

Download our refreshed ESO Innovation Strategy document which sets out our innovation priorities for the first year of our RIIO-2 regulatory period.

Download the innovation strategy

Our priorities for 2021-22

1 Digital Transformation

What are we aiming to achieve?
  • Efficient digital processes established across the GB energy system. 
  • The power of Big Data and associated technologies fully realised. 
  • New insights created and shared.
  • New services developed and accessed.

Find out more in our Digitalisation Strategy

What is informing our approach?

As the energy sector moves away from siloes and becomes more integrated, the number of new players is rapidly increasing. The democratisation of data through greater transparency and the presumption of open access are crucial to driving digitalisation across the whole system.

A more complex, faster-moving electricity system needs much faster decision-making. Machine learning is needed to process the amount of data required to make the most economic decisions quickly enough.

As the electricity networks become more reliant on data and aging technologies, the risk of cyber-attacks and the need for a faster response to such attacks becomes greater.

What are some of the opportunities for innovation?

Finding solutions to problems like:

  • How do we reach our ultimate goal of building a Digital Twin of both the power system and markets?
  • How can AI and machine learning techniques be applied across all of our activities?
  • How can we continue to enhance our power system modelling capabilities as system characteristics become increasingly complex?
  • In the control room of the future, how can we provide our control engineers with all the information they need in the most efficient way?

2 Future markets

What are we aiming to achieve?
  • Competition everywhere, with greater market participation in supply and demand that includes participants of all types and sizes.
  • The best way to facilitate consumer participation in our markets as they take on a more active role in their energy usage, with the uptake of smart technologies.
What is informing our approach?

As we transform to a zero-carbon electricity system, it is increasingly important to explore markets for new services that can meet changing system needs, as well as markets for new products. It is also critical that we facilitate a level playing field for all participants, both traditional and emerging to further promote competition.

What are some of the opportunities for innovation?

Finding solutions to problems like:

  • How can we remove the barriers preventing smaller participants and new technology types entering new and existing markets?
  • What effective new market modelling tools can we use to assess future market designs and interactions?
  • What new potential consumer markets exist? What are their technical characteristics and entry conditions?

3 Constraint management

What are we aiming to achieve?

Optimised management of networks across transmission and distribution with minimal curtailment of renewable generation and at minimum overall cost to consumers.

What is informing our approach?

Understanding and managing the risk of constraints that may occur is becoming increasingly difficult due to more uncertainties in supply and demand patterns. If these constraints aren’t avoided or managed in the most efficient way, costs for consumers can increase dramatically.

What are some of the opportunities for innovation?

Finding solutions to problems like:

  • How can long-term energy storage (electrochecmical, thermal or mechanical) reduce year-round constraints?
  • Where can low-carbon hydrogen production be sited to reduce constraints?
  • How can we use data and new technologies to either increase transfer in the first instance, or provide a fast-acting, automated response to a system condition?

4 Whole energy system

What are we aiming to achieve?

A holistic, integrated view across all energy vectors and sectors that supports efficient and effective system planning, development and operation.

What is informing our approach?

The ongoing conversation around the decarbonisation of heat and transport, combined with the electricity systems’ increased reliance on gas for flexibility (particularly on the distribution networks), present a crucial opportunity to consider the energy system as a whole. This means viewing the system across multiple vectors (i.e. electricity and the multiple gas types) and the sectors it supports (e.g. heat, power, transport, industry).

What are some of the opportunities for innovation?

Finding solutions to problems like:

  • How can we model the whole energy system across all sectors and incorporate this into our work with FES, NOA and Early Competition?
  • How can we conduct hydrogen impact assessments, feasibility studies and modelling?
  • What flexibility services can be created for the electricity network as other sectors decarbonise?

5 System stability

What are we aiming to achieve?

The safe, reliable and secure operation of a zero-carbon electricity system by 2025

What is informing our approach?

Synchronous generation (SG) supports the stability of the system, but SG capacity is decreasing as we transition to a zero carbon future. This results in faster frequency changes, less voltage and fault ride-through stability, making it more difficult for both synchronous and non-synchronous generators to operate safely. 

What are some of the opportunities for innovation?

Finding solutions to problems like:

  • How can we best model stability in an increasingly non-synchronous system?
  • How can we speed up some of our processes, or automate them to keep up with a lower inertia system?
  • How can we best understand the behaviour of new technologies and their impact on the system (e.g. Virtual Synchronous Machines, V2G) to support their participation in future Stability Pathfinder procurement?

6 Forecasting of supply and demand

What are we aiming to achieve?

Sophisticated and accurate energy forecasting in both operational and planning timescales.

What is informing our approach?

We are considering both short and long term forecasting of electricity supply and demand. Short-term forecasting is becoming increasingly difficult due to a lack of visibility of intermittent embedded generation on electricity networks and more complex usage patterns. 

Long-term supply and demand forecasting are also becoming harder to carry out as new technologies and global market forces emerge.

These could lead to dramatically different end-user behaviours.

What are some of the opportunities for innovation?

Finding solutions to problems like:

  • How do new types of consumer demand, like EVs and electric heat, actually behave during normal operation? What do their demand profiles look like for different demographics?
  • How can we better understand the impact of forecast error on control room actions?
  • How can we further integrate AI, ML, and big data techniques into our forecasting processes?

7 Whole electricity system

What are we aiming to achieve?

Efficient and effective planning and operation across transmission and distribution.

What is informing our approach?

New decentralised energy resources are connecting to distribution networks. This turns them into active networks and transforms the role of Distribution Network Operators. Many of these new resources can provide valuable services to us, increasing competition in our markets and those of emerging Distribution System Operators (DSOs).

What are some of the opportunities for innovation?

Finding solutions to problems like:

  • How can joint innovation projects help to solve issues affecting transmission and distribution networks though Regional Development Programmes?
  • How can new markets providing distribution network flexibility work efficiently alongside transmission level markets?
  • Can we build more complex whole system models which incorporate both ESO and DSO data?

8 System restoration

What are we aiming to achieve?

The ability to restore GB from total or partial shutdown with zero carbon sources by 2025, and at minimum cost to consumers.

What is informing our approach?

The availability of conventional Black Start service providers will decrease as we shift away from conventional thermal generation. We need new solutions to make sure we can maintain and improve on our capability to restore the system.

What are some of the opportunities for innovation?

Finding solutions to problems like:

  • How can we continue to deliver Distributed Restart to facilitate Black Start from DER and address any issues this might uncover?
  • Testing automated controllers and end-to-end telecoms on the live power system.
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We’re planning to launch our first Open Innovation call soon, which will focus on our top priorities. Sign up to our mailing list and we’ll let you know when the launch will be

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