The energy landscape is undergoing a revolution, with changing generation and demand patterns driving the need for substantial network investment in order to reach the UK government's Net Zero Target by 2050.

We have worked with industry during the development of our Early Competition Plan. We submitted our plan to Ofgem in April 2021 and our low-regret implementation activities in December,2021. Currently awaiting Ofgem’s decision, which is anticipated in early April ,2022 whilst planning implementation work

What is an 'Early Competition Plan'?

Early competition refers to competition that occurs prior to the detailed design, surveying and consenting phases of solution development. This means organisations could compete for the design, build and ownership of onshore transmission solutions. Early competition will help encourage new ways of working and aims to seek the best solutions at a fair cost for consumers.

Find out more about our zero-carbon ambition.

We have worked with partners from in and outside the energy industry to identify how competition could be introduced to cocreate our proposals. Our Early Competition Plan describes an end-to-end process of how early competition may work, proposing how models for early competition could be implemented and outlines the roles and responsibilities of all parties in the end-to-end process. More details about the project, and how we have worked with our stakeholders to form our proposals can be found on our key documents page.

What happens next?

Ofgem have reviewed our Early Competition Plan submitted in April 2021 and have announced their decision to progress early competition. They have asked the ESO to lead the implementation of the early competition tender process.

Last year the ESO took forward ‘low regrets’ activity to help towards the implementation of early competition. This includes developing internal ESO processes to undertake project identification and share appropriate network models. We have published a summary of this activity on our website. We have also shared a paper setting out how applicable the transmission model may be at distribution level. Finally, we have included a high-level implementation timeframes diagram.

Additional information developed through this process will be shared with stakeholders through appropriate forums, should Ofgem decide to progress early competition. This includes a draft project identification CBA and potential code change requirements. Our published key documents from Phase 5a are found on our key documents page.

Power Responsive Annual Report 2021 Pylons in sunset

Webinar: Early Competition implementation launch

Following Ofgems decision to implement Early Competition, our latest webinar sets out our high-level implementation timeframes and discuss our early thinking to our stakeholder approach.

Watch the webinar
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Webinar: An Introduction to the Early Competition Plan

Watch a recording of our webinar to hear a verbal overview of our proposals, and what this could mean for industry.

Watch the webinar
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Early Competition Plan: A plan for onshore electricity transmission

Read our plan to find out more on our proposals for early competition.

Learn more

What are we trying to achieve?

  • Unlocking value for consumers

    Competition in network development has the potential to unlock millions of pounds of consumer value by encouraging those who are responsible for transmission assets to use more innovative and cost effective solutions to meet the needs of the electricity system.

  • Fostering innovation

    Competitive pressure and involvement of new parties is likely to drive innovation and generate a wider range of ideas for solutions to system needs.

    Depending on the tender model there could be innovation in areas such as technology, design, supply chain management, raising of finance and operations.

    Effective competitions should be open to as many potential solutions as possible, including proposals from a full range of network (solutions requiring a transmission licence) and non-network solutions (a service or an asset which doesn’t require a transmission licence).

  • Early competition supports the transition to a carbon-free network

    As the ESO leads Great Britain’s transition to net zero, cost savings achieved through introducing early competition will be important in helping drive lower transmission charges and make investment in low carbon generation more affordable or cheaper

    This benefit is particularly important considering the role of the ESO in supporting Great Britain achieving net zero.

    We hope that early competition could also encourage sustainability as we are exploring whether this could be part of the criteria for tenders.

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Early Competition Phase 3 consultation has launched!

Our Early Competition project is working with the industry to transform the way Great Britain’s electricity system is designed and built. Find out the latest on phase 3.

eso :
National Grid ESO - Early Competition Plan - Mermaid street

Increasing competition in the markets we operate

At the ESO we have an ambition to enable more competition across the markets that we operate so that, together, we can unlock millions of pounds in consumer value and continue to progress towards Britain's net zero goal

eso :
National Grid ESO - Early competition project updates - Sunset

ESO plan proposes early competition into the onshore electricity transmission n…

The ESO has published its Early Competition Plan – co-created with industry partners and experts over 18 months, it proposes a new approach to deliver competition into the onshore electricity transmission network.

The journey to developing our plan

Phase 1: development of the conceptual model (complete)

In February 2020 we published our Phase 1 update. 

Download the update


Phase 2: initial consultation on emerging Early Competition Model (complete)

Our Phase 2 consultation was open for 6 weeks, between 3 July 2020 and 14 August 2020, where we consulted on the end-to-end model.

Stakeholder engagement was key in order to develop our Phase 2 proposals, with feedback received at our May workshops and bilaterals informing our proposals.

We received 7 responses from a range of stakeholders including Transmission Owners and potential new market entrants.

Download all responses.

Phase 3: final consultation on emerging Early Competition Model (complete)

Our Phase 3 consultation was open for 10 weeks, between 3 December 2020 and 15 February 2021. Where we consulted on further details of the end-to-end model, following on from our Phase 2 consultation.

Stakeholder engagement was key in order to develop our Phase 3 proposals, with feedback received at our September workshops and bilaterals informing our proposals.

See all of our past events

Phase 4: submission of the Early Competition Plan to Ofgem (complete)

We submitted our Early Competition Plan to Ofgem on 30 April 2021.

In order to form our proposals, we took into consideration all stakeholder feedback received throughout the development of the plan including Phase 3 consultation responses.

Ofgem are currently reviewing our plan and we anticipate a response later in 2021.

Phase 5a: low-regret implementation activities (complete)

Following submission to Ofgem we have commenced low-regret implementation in the aim of reducing implementation timescales following decision. Potential activities which we aim to commence are:

  • Finalise process for identifying possible projects
  • Explore potential for expanding Pathfinders as a pre-legislative form of early competition
  • Identifying Code changes for post decision
  • ESO organisational design development

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the criteria for Early Competition?

The criteria for running an Early Competition are being developed with stakeholders as part of the work to develop the Early Competition Plan.

In the RIIO-2 Sector Specific Methodology Decision Document published May 2019, Ofgem asked TOs to set out in their RIIO-2 business plans projects which met an ‘early competition’ criteria – projects that are at least £50 million in value and which are contestable (i.e. there is potential for alternative solutions).

This was to provide initial visibility of the pipeline of potential projects. Ofgem expect the final criteria to be developed as part of the Early Competition Plan. 

We are seeking further input to this question through our Phase 2 Consultation.[insert link to ‘Our Approach‘ section

Competitively Appointed Transmission Owner (CATO) legislation is not yet in place. Is this required before Early Competition can be implemented?

No, CATO legislation is not required before the implementation of Early Competition.

Ofgem’s request specified that the models for Early Competition should be able to operate before and after any CATO legislation.

What about the late model? Will Early Competition replace Late Competition? 

No, Ofgem see a role for both early and late competition. 

The Early Competition Plan project focuses solely on models of Early Competition, where the competition occurs before a detailed solution is produced. 

Ofgem are continuing to develop the process for late competition (i.e. competition that occurs after the solution is designed and consented).

What is the difference between the Early Competition Plan and the Network Development Roadmap Pathfinder Projects?

The ESO has already begun the process of introducing competition into electricity transmission through our Network Development Roadmap Pathfinders.

The pathfinders focus on seeking wider “whole system” solutions to transmission system needs that do not require a transmission license.

However, the pathfinders are limited to the procurement of non-network services, while early competition looks to facilitate competition across both network and non-network transmission solutions.

As the development of both processes continues, we will consider the circumstances where each approach is most appropriate and where, in future, they can potentially be merged.

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