How our innovation work is helping Britain reach net zero

Ahead of the Energy Networks Innovation Conference (ENIC), National Grid ESO's head of digital transformation and innovation strategy, Carolina Tortora, highlights some of our key innovation projects with industry.

Transforming Britain’s energy system for a net zero future has never been more important, and the Prime Minister’s recent 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution marks an exciting commitment from the government to help our country achieve it.

At National Grid ESO, our role at the heart of the energy industry puts us firmly at the forefront of this net zero transition – and we’re looking forward to sharing some of the ways we’re working with the sector to advance the effort at the forthcoming Energy Networks Innovation Conference (ENIC).

We’re best placed to tackle the challenges of a changing energy industry together

Our innovation activities are vital in preparing us for the challenges ahead. They are also key to unlocking the full benefits of low cost, low carbon energy for consumers.

Whether it’s our own ambition to be able to operate the electricity system with zero carbon by 2025, or Britain’s wider 2050 net zero target, one thing is clear: a lot of the innovative and disruptive ideas to achieve these goals will come from thinking outside the box and working with partners.

And that’s what we’ve been doing. You can read about our current innovation portfolio – which saw us work with 27 partners on 35 projects – in our latest Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) annual summary.

Read our latest NIA annual summary for 2019/20

At ENIC 2020 we’ll be highlighting some of the most successful of these initiatives – many of which are world-firsts – including:

  • Power Potential (with UKPN) – enabling distributed energy resources (DERs) connected to the local electricity network to provide reactive power to the national electricity system. Live trials kicked off in October, and is creating a new market – and potential new income stream – for renewable energy generators including wind, solar and battery resources.
  • Distributed ReStart (with SP Energy Networks and TNEI) – rethinking our electricity system’s most important back-up plan for a zero carbon future. We’re harnessing the rapid growth of DERs – including renewables – to make it possible for them to deliver a black start service that isn’t reliant on fossil fuel generators.
  • 4D Heat (with SSEN and Delta-EE) – exploring the potential to use electric heat demand in off-gas areas of Scotland to soak up surplus wind generation, rather than reduce wind farms’ output. A project report recently found that up to 540GWh of wind power could be absorbed in 2030, saving £24m per year in wind constraint payments.
  • Frequency response auction trial (with EPEX SPOT) – trialling closer-to-real-time procurement of frequency response services, which is opening the market up to more players – including renewables – and reducing costs through increased competition. The trial helped shape the market arrangements for our new Dynamic Containment tool.

Our experts will be talking through these projects in greater detail during the conference – see the schedule below and the full agenda on the ENIC 2020 website, where you can register to attend the conference for free.

While the current situation means our innovation team can’t get out on the road in the same way as before the pandemic, we’re nevertheless open for business and keen to continue engaging and working with potential partners from industry, academia, or other sectors entirely.

After all, one thing remains very much the same – we’re best placed to tackle the challenges of a changing energy industry together.


Our ENIC 2020 speakers and panellists (Tue 8 December)

Delivering tomorrow’s electricity network:  the Open Networks Project

1.00pm – Mark Herring

Accelerating flexibility markets

4.00pm – Dr Biljana Stojkovska – Power Potential

4.15pm – Yingyi Wang – Frequency auction trial (phase 2)

4.25pm – Pete Chandler – Distributed ReStart

Accelerating flexibility markets: next steps

4.45pm – Carolina Tortora (panel moderator)

The full event agenda is on the ENIC 2020 website.