As Britain’s electricity system operator, we’re right at the heart of efforts to transform the way our energy networks operate.

The journey to creating an energy system fit for the future wouldn’t be possible without the close collaboration that’s happening with industry partners to help the transition. This is known as a whole electricity system approach.

Distribution system operation (DSO) – the key to a smart, flexible electricity system

What is distribution system operation (DSO)? It means the distribution network operators (DNOs) – who currently deliver electricity from the grid to homes and businesses – taking on more of a system operator role at a regional level. DNOs becoming DSOs is key to a smarter energy system and more efficient flexibility markets – and to achieving net zero.

Whilst we at the ESO do not have an ambition to be a DSO, we recognise the need to evolve to facilitate the transition to DSO. This will play a part in ensuring that we can achieve net zero emissions at the least cost to the consumer.

In April 2021, we published ‘Enabling the DSO transition,’ a consultation which shares our proposed vision for how we can support the DSO transition, and our draft version of a successful outcome by 2025. Strong collaboration across the industry will be pivotal to the success of the DSO transition, which is why we invited stakeholder feedback on our publication. The responses we received, and a summary document, can be found in the document library below.

Download Enabling the DSO transition

Operational visibility of Distributed Energy Resources (DER)

As well as DSO, we recognise that greater operational visibility of DER is a key enabler to ensuring Great Britain meets its net zero ambitions. We already have a level of visibility of DER, but we recognise going forwards that this will need to increase to understand more about the volumes and behaviour of connected DER to better plan and operate the transmission system. Critical to this visibility is the need for operational metering at a standard that works for all parties. In June 2022, we published our ‘Operational visibility of DER’ consultation, where we asked stakeholders for their views on our proposed guidance on our operational metering specifications going forwards.

Download Operational visibility of DER

The way we generate and use electricity is changing

This is driven by the challenges of decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation. Watch this video to see how considering the whole system will create consumer value and enable zero carbon operation.

Share feedback on Enabling the DSO transition to Join our WES mailing list.

Let us know if you'd like to join our distribution system operation (DSO) mailing list to hear updates from the team.

DSO transition webinar

Listen to our webinar to find out how National Grid ESO propose to support the transition to Distribution System Operation (DSO) to help achieve a smarter energy system.

Enabling the DSO transition

Read our responses to your questions from two Distribution System Operation webinars we've hosted recently.

Programmes and projects

Facilitating the transition to a smarter, flexible electricity system.

Here are some initiatives already underway that are helping us meet whole system outcomes.

Regional Development Programmes (RDP)

RDPs look at the whole electricity system for areas of development for additional capacity, reduce constraints and open up new revenue streams for market participants. 

Find out more

Power Potential

This project aims to create a new reactive power market for distributed energy resources (DER) and generate additional capacity on the network.

Find out more

Open Networks

The Open Networks Programme has brought together the electricity grid operators in the UK and Ireland to work together to deliver transformational change and will continue to deliver change at a rapid pace. This includes driving standardisation, open flexibility markets, providing better visibility of data and working across gas and electricity networks to build an efficient energy system that leaves nobody behind. For more information, visit the open networks page using the link below.

Find out more

Document library

In this section you will find useful documents such as DSO Transition responses and archive papers.

Archive papers

National Grid ESO considers DSO to be a fundamental part of whole electricity system development. We are committed to working with Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) and other parties to facilitate the transition to DSO. Here we provide our response to Ofgem’s recent position paper on DSO.

Download the paper

We have prepared this paper to promote discussion on how decentralised energy resources can efficiently provide services to both NGESO and DSOs in a coordinated manner. To date, we have used the paper to support conversations with DNO’s, Ofgem and BEIS.

We’re interested to hear your views – please use the link below to join the conversation.

Download document

Join the conversation

The traditional distinctions between transmission and distribution networks and processes are blurring. We need a whole system approach with our stakeholders to deliver services efficiently and effectively. As a stand-alone ESO we need to work with other stakeholders to facilitate whole system outcomes.

This paper discusses how the ESO role is changing to facilitate whole system outcomes and how this links to both the ESO roles and the Open Networks Project.

Download the paper

This paper looks at a world where the ESO works closely with DSOs to ensure routes to local, regional and national markets are optimised, in order to create value for the end consumer. We believe that this world provides a credible whole electricity system vision - but recognise that there are other potential pathways that need to be considered.

Here, we consider the key topics that we believe we need to focus on to deliver this future landscape. We are interested in your views -please email [email protected]

Download the Paper

National Grid ESO is undertaking a wide range of activities to inform the development of Whole Electricity System. We achieve this through working with others and taking a ‘design by doing’ approach. This paper further describes our approach and what successful outcomes will look like for us. Additionally, recognising the wide range of initiatives the ESO is involved in, we have developed this document to provide a reference at this point in time for all relevant transformational activities.

Download the paper