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At National Grid ESO, we ensure Great Britain has the essential electricity it requires, managing supply and demand to meet the needs of our nation.

We also have a clear mission: to decarbonise the energy system and bridge the gap to net zero.

The journey to net zero and a carbon free future has already begun, and the way we generate, manage and consume energy is changing for the better.

Continuing to innovate and adapt the energy system requires a range of new tools and a reimagining of how the entire industry can come together to deliver lasting impact.

That is why in 2021, National Grid ESO launched an ambitious, industry-wide mission to digitise our energy system.

We call it the Virtual Energy System.

We call it the Virtual Energy System

This is a world first, a data sharing infrastructure to enable an ecosystem of interconnected digital twins of the entire energy landscape, working in parallel to the physical system. A shared industry asset, the Virtual Energy System will improve simulation and forecasting abilities to support the long-term vision to operate a zero-carbon electricity system. Together, as an industry, we can turn this vision into a reality. We are calling on every element of the GB energy industry to lend its support, expertise, and investment.

Introducing the Virtual Energy System, powered by ESO

How the system works  

  1. The Virtual Energy System begins with an open framework, with agreed access, operations and security protocols.  
  2. Over time, this is populated by existing and new digital twins – replicas of physical components of the energy system.  
  3. Each digital twin will contribute to and access real-time data on the status and operation of other elements of the system.  
  4. This layered data generates insight, and a virtual environment through which we can all innovate new ideas, with the potential to transform the system and support the transition to net zero.

Key Documents and Resources

How will the Virtual Energy System be built?

Developing the Virtual Energy System is a socio-technical challenge, that needs to consider people, process, data, and technology. To support the introduction of an increasing number of partners and participants, ESO has identified six priority factors to accelerate the growth of the Virtual Energy System. 

Read more about these priority factors in the reports below:

Developing a Common Framework

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It’s vital that different elements of the Digital Twin are compatible and adhere to a Common Framework. Earlier this year, National Grid ESO announced it had appointed professional services firm, Arup, supported by Energy Systems Catapult and Icebreaker One, to articulate the principles and framework needed for parties to develop digital twins which are interoperable and can interact with the Virtual Energy System, using open data.


Virtual Energy System project receives Strategic Innovation Fund grants

National Grid ESO was awarded a Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) grant to support the Common Framework project.

In addition, National Grid ESO has been awarded funding for the beta phase of the CrowdFlex project. The project will explore how technology and consumer behaviour patterns could support the co-ordination of energy consumption, generation and grid management.

The Strategic Innovation Fund is a programme delivered by the UK’s independent energy regulator Ofgem in partnership with Innovate UK. It aims to find and fund ambitious, innovative projects with the potential to accelerate the transition to net zero.


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For more information on the Virtual Energy System programme, or to find out how you can get involved, email us using [email protected].