Decarbonisation - the next industrial revolution

Matt Magill is the ESO’s Zero Carbon Operation Senior Manager and he sits within networks, where he works with teams and experts from across the business to facilitate our move to a zero carbon system. As we move closer to the COP26 summit in November, we spoke to Matt about how he is helping us towards net zero… 

What is your role in the ESO? Can you explain what you do on a day-to-day basis? 

I’m accountable for the plan that enables us to operate a zero carbon system by 2025 and beyond. That plan is now well underway with tools like the Operability Strategy Report and our Markets Roadmap to 2025. But there are new challenges post-2025 as the way we use electricity changes, and we as the ESO need to make sure we are on top of our game to face these. 

How does your role help us on our journey to net zero? 

There are lots of things we do to ensure a constant and reliable supply of electricity across Great Britain, like balancing actions and some of these actions increase the level of carbon on the grid.  For example, if we need additional system services, like inertia, we might need to power up a coal or gas plant, which produces carbon. 

My role is to source alternative options which don’t have carbon impacts, i.e. utilising zero carbon sources such as new technologies, batteries, wind and solar.  

And ultimately these technologies are a less expensive way to deliver system services, so if we can make it easier to use them on the grid, we can reduce the cost as well as the carbon impact.


What is the most interesting or exciting thing about your job? 

Up until now, most of our work has been around meeting the physical challenges to get us to zero carbon operation. The next step is more difficult as we turn our focus to consumers and how energy usage and behaviour is going to need to shift.  

Smart and flexible systems will have to evolve and adapt and we need consumers to actively participate and make conscious decisions about how and when they use their energy.  

Ultimately our role as the ESO is to enable consumers to make these positive choices.  

Why is COP and reaching net zero is important? 

We’re the first generation in history to have the technology to move away from fossil fuels. So we should be using this technology to innovate and find solutions that don’t use fossil fuels for future generations. 

I also do believe that this is a genuine crisis. We have an obligation to work towards  net zero and being a part of that is really important to me. I’m in a unique position within the ESO to be able to support the transition Great Britain’s electricity system to zero carbon and help us reach net zero in the future.  

As a major industrial player, Great Britain also has a large historical carbon debt and it’s our responsibility to be a leader in the change. I see decarbonisation as another industrial revolution and by moving quickly we can show that it is possible to move to a low carbon future. We’ve got the opportunity and the resources to make this transition so we should do it. It is our moral obligation. 

Find out more about our zero carbon journey here