National Grid ESO receives Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) grant to advance development for digitising Great Britain’s energy system

09 March 2022, London, United Kingdom: National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) has been awarded a Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) grant of almost £150,000 to support its Common Framework Project – the development of the principles and technical framework for the creation of the Virtual Energy System programme – a digital replica of Britain’s entire energy landscape.

Made up of multiple digital twins, the Virtual Energy System will work in parallel to the physical system, affording a virtual environment to share real-time data and enable users to model and predict scenarios that will support the decarbonisation of the energy industry, while supporting a digital-first and sustainable energy network for the future.

Digital twins will be developed by a wide range of industry participants, which will join and interact with one another to better simulate real-world scenarios and help advance innovation.

The first step in making this vision a reality is to develop a Common Framework which can be used to understand what standards should be set out with participants to facilitate collaboration and compatibility.

National Grid ESO is working with a range of project partners and technical consortium who bring considerable expertise in digital twins, systems-thinking, and energy data to the project.

Earlier this year, it announced that it had appointed Arup, supported by Energy Systems Catapult and Icebreaker One, to help identify and articulate the relevant principles for the technical framework which will serve as a ‘blueprint’, enabling multiple parties to develop digital twins which are interoperable and can interact with the Virtual Energy System, using open data.

Jonathan Barcroft, Common Framework Workstream Lead, National Grid ESO said:

While the Virtual Energy System aims to foster innovation and development, it’s vital that different pieces of the Digital Twin are compatible and adhere to a Common Framework.

A project of this ambition, scale and complexity has never been achieved before and the programme will run over several years. This next phase of the Common Framework Project will enable us to explore key considerations for the creation of the Virtual Energy System, including themes such as cyber security, data quality, metadata, legal and regulatory issues, and common attributes of digital twins.

This grant from the Strategic Innovation Fund will be used to pay for our technical partner to develop the common framework and for our network partners to provide the required subject matter expertise, advancing progress for the development of the Virtual Energy System.

This initial stage funding forms part of the Ofgem 2021: whole system integration – Discovery competition and will enable the potential for the Virtual Energy System, as an early-stage project, to be further explored and developed. The project is funded by energy network users and consumers through the Strategic Innovation Fund, a programme from the UK’s independent energy regulator Ofgem managed in partnership with Innovate UK.

Simon Evans, Global Digital Energy Leader at Arup, said:

The Virtual Energy System is an important step towards connecting the energy system, which is critical for achieving net zero. This will offer new opportunities for innovation, providing new ways to collaborate and create new, more efficient services for consumers.

Often there is much focus on the visualisation of digital twins, so we are both proud and excited to be bringing our expertise in the digital and energy industries to focus on identifying the data requirements needed and the underlying interoperability between systems to allow the exchange and flow of data.

In addition to being used by industry and in the longer-term, consumers, it is anticipated that the Virtual Energy System will offer widespread benefits to government departments, regulators, academics and think-tanks, informing strategies, policies and regulatory decisions to advance net-zero transition.

An integrated view of the energy system, including the impact on multiple sectors, would also allow the Future System Operator to manage and operate the system in such a way that it would drive cost efficiencies and optimise the reduction of C02 emissions.

Virtual Energy System insights will also support new market opportunities, business models and the acceleration of digital innovation within the energy sector.

More information on the Virtual Energy System can be found by visiting Virtual Energy System or contacting  [email protected].


For further information please contact:


Susie Dullard, Director

Email: [email protected]  

About National Grid ESO

National Grid ESO – a legally separate business within the National Grid group – sits at the heart of the electricity system in Great Britain.

It moves electricity around the country’s high-voltage network to balance supply and demand in real-time, using a mix of power sources to make sure electricity is available wherever and whenever it’s needed.

The ESO’s mission is to facilitate the decarbonisation of Great Britain’s energy network and ensure the delivery of reliable, affordable, and green electricity for consumers. It works with stakeholders across the whole energy industry to plan for future network needs, using insight to make sure it can balance the system today and find opportunities to transform the way it operates it tomorrow.

About the Virtual Energy System, powered by National Grid ESO

The Virtual Energy System is a digital replica of our entire energy landscape, providing a virtual environment to share data, model and predict scenarios that support the decarbonisation of our energy industry while supporting a sustainable energy network for the future.

National Grid ESO is spearheading the industry effort to build a Virtual Energy System and has started by developing tools that fit within the Virtual Energy System framework based on its own systems. The ESO is developing projects in partnership with Octopus Energy, Google X, Western Power Distribution, and Scottish Power Energy Networks, amongst others.

About the Ofgem Strategic Innovation Fund

The purpose of Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund is to support network innovation that will contribute to achieving Net Zero rapidly and at lowest cost; deliver real net benefits to network companies, energy users and consumers; and help the UK to become a ‘Silicon Valley’ of energy.

It aims to work with other public funders of innovation so that activities appropriately funded by energy users and consumers are coordinated with activities funded by Government. The Fund is delivered in partnership with Innovate UK.

About Ofgem

Ofgem is Britain’s independent energy regulator. Its role is to protect consumers now and in the future by working to deliver a greener, fairer energy system by:

  • Working with Government, industry and consumer groups to deliver a net zero economy at the lowest cost to consumers.

  • Stamping out sharp and bad practice, ensuring fair treatment for all consumers, especially the vulnerable.

  • Enabling competition and innovation, which drives down prices and results in new products and services for consumers.

About Innovate UK

Innovate UK is the UK’s innovation agency, part of UK Research and Innovation. It drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base.