The role of Distribution Network Operators is evolving. A smarter, more flexible electricity network is key to reaching the government’s Net Zero target by 2050, working collaboratively to create solutions and build a smart grid that will deliver a Net Zero future for all. The last five years has seen Energy Networks Association’s Open Networks programme bring stakeholders together to do just this.
We’ve worked with the industry to build real momentum to the transition to a smart, flexible, Net Zero energy system. As chair I am proud of what we have achieved, but we must continue to build on our success and drive the programme forwards to deliver Net Zero networks.
Our first priority for the year is enhancing our collaboration with our stakeholders. It’s one of the keys to success and will play an even bigger role this year than ever before. From improving visibility of distributed resources on the networks and making network data more accessible to the public, to delivering the best possible solutions to suit customers’ needs, we are putting our stakeholders at the heart of our plans.
We’ve created a new Challenge Group, to be independently chaired by energy industry expert, Maxine Frerk, so stakeholders including non-network representatives have their say on our plans. We’ll also be running a Dissemination Forum quarterly from March and anyone can sign up to provide input and stay engaged with the programme’s latest developments.
The second priority is continuing to grow the flexibility market. We have seen huge growth in the flexibility market, opening up access to capacity as a service from providers and benefitting customers by reducing cost. Last year we further developed local markets, with a record breaking 3GW of flexibility available to the market, making the UK’s flexibility market the most advanced in Europe. Supporting flexibility remains one of the largest and most important areas of our work going forward in 2022. Unlocking hidden network capacity by using flexibility services opens up new markets, which will ensure networks facilitate Net Zero at lowest cost for our customers.
Our work this year will also see us deliver a common framework for flexibility services, further aligning methodologies across network and system operator, and delivering key actions from the UK Government’s 2021 Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan. We will be at the centre of the transition to Distribution System Operation, informing key policy and putting it into action.
Thirdly, our work on whole systems will play a vital role in helping local authorities turn their climate emergency plans into tangible action that will make a difference to the everyday lives of their residents. The programme is also formally feeding into a BEIS initiative, led by Energy Systems Catapult, where the energy networks share knowledge and expertise to help our local authorities. This is one of the most important and exciting projects we are working on because it has the potentially to directly touch the lives of many millions of our customers.
Our goal is simple. We will continue to set out a clear delivery pathway, drawing on the expertise of network companies, Ofgem, UK Government and wider industry to develop, facilitate and progress the necessary steps that will nurture and develop new flexibility markets, increase renewables and embed stakeholder feedback within the Open Networks programme.
When it was launched in January 2017, ENA’s Open Networks was laying the foundations of a smart, flexible energy system in the UK. As we pass the five-year anniversary, I can reflect on the pace of change, which the programme has delivered and which is unprecedented in the industry. We will strive to build on existing successes and go even faster forward change to create Net Zero networks, boosting new flexibility markets, and securing the supply of clean, low-carbon energy.
Find out more about the 2022 plans for ENA’s Open Networks programme.
Current± and the ENA are hosting a webinar on the opportunities for industry within a more flexible energy network as the penetration of renewables continues to grow. To find out more and register to be part of the event on Wednesday 13 April 13 2022, click here.