Family relaxing in a smart home

Transforming the energy networks of the future

Smart home

National Grid ESO is playing an important role in transforming the way our energy networks operate. Working closely with our industry partners as part of the ENA Open Networks project we’re supporting the uptake of new smart energy technologies by more and more homes, businesses and communities in the UK. As the ENA publishes the Distribution System Operation (or DSO) implementation plan, Andy Wainwright, Business Lead for our work on Whole Electricity System, explains why this is such an important milestone, what role the ESO plays and what’s next for the project.

Launched in 2017 the Open Networks project looks at what changes need to be made to our energy systems to facilitate the transition to a smart, flexible energy system. As Great Britain moves to decarbonise, the changing nature of both energy consumption and generation means that networks need to be able to respond more flexibly, while continuing to deliver reliable and affordable energy for consumers. The project is a cross-industry initiative involving the ESO, Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), the British Government, Ofgem, academics and Non-Governmental Organisations.

One important part of this work is changing the role that DNOs play in managing their networks. Making the transition to DSO is essential to improving the performance and efficiency of the networks and helping to increase innovation. What’s more, it looks to put the customer at the heart of the energy system of the future and will provide ways for customers to access more opportunities within this developing smart grid.

As energy becomes more decentralised, and its consumption becomes more varied, DNOs will have a significant role in managing the network at a local level and making sure regional resources can support the delivery of an efficient and resilient system. This needs strong co-ordination and collaboration with National Grid ESO, and our role is to make sure that a whole electricity system view is taken of the DSO transition. This will help the industry to collectively develop market-based solutions that facilitate the transition to net zero at least cost to the consumer.

These activities are happening now across all network organisations and Open Networks has used these to create an industry-wide DSO implementation plan, which you can read here for more information. The plan includes information on many of our collaborative activities including the regional development programmes developing market-based solutions to facilitate the connection of new Distributed Energy Resource and innovation projects such as Distributed Restart.

What’s next for the Open Networks project?

The impact of COVID-19 looks set to accelerate the energy transition. Flexibility has been increasingly important over the past few months in helping us to manage unprecedented low demand on the electricity system . With pressure on the UK Government to prioritise a “Green Recovery”, the work of Open Networks will become increasingly important. Next month sees the launch of a major consultation with industry on the development of co-ordinated flexibility services and the feedback from this will help shape future plans in this area.