My energy story started back in 2008 in Pakistan when I was a fresh engineering graduate accepting a hands-on field engineering role with a specialist oil provider. Being one of the first women to work in rig operations in Pakistan meant there was never a dull moment and it was a brilliant opportunity to become a part of the global energy community.
What appealed to me about the energy networks is having the opportunity to play a key role in the day-to-day lives of people and to the economy. With an energy revolution underway, it is a great time be a part of the solution that will empower customers and enable a Net Zero future.
I joined Energy Networks Association (ENA) in 2017 as project manager on the Open Networks Project, having previously worked in the energy sector through a range of roles across three different continents. Joining early on in the project has given me a brilliant perspective on assessing our priorities and how they fit into the bigger picture of achieving Net Zero. I was delighted to be promoted to head of Open Networks at the end of last year, and 2021 has got off to a busy start!
To give some background on the project, since its launch in 2016 it has helped Britain on its journey to become a superpower of renewable energy. By simplifying and standardising processes and practices where possible, the Open Networks Project is supporting UK’s energy networks to push forward towards the ultimate goal of net zero carbon emissions.
Focusing in on flexibility
Now in its fifth year, the project is continuing to drive the key changes and innovation needed to transition to a carbon-free smart grid. We have expanded its focus on Flexibility Services, we are continuing to demonstrate the implementation of Distribution System Operation functionality, are implementing improvements to the customer connections process, and delivering Whole Energy Systems efficiencies.
It’s also is a key year in light of the upcoming RIIO-2 activities. In addition, in 2021 the project will move a number of products to open governance and change management to allow for enduring solutions that can be updated and refreshed in response to industry feedback.
Flexibility remains the project’s largest area of work with the highest priority this year. To give some context behind this, the existing network infrastructure was designed as a one-way power system and as we see more renewables on lower voltage levels of the network, the energy flows are becoming increasingly complex. So we are doing a number of things to help manage this:
- We are helping new technologies (such as storage) connect to the network and provide flexibility services that play in key role in helping to manage variability from renewables.
- We are establishing more coordination and planning between transmission and distribution to help manage network operations more efficiently.
In a nutshell, flexibility allows for better utilisation of existing capacity on the network and is vital to help customers get the most from new technologies – while helping networks to manage their systems better and plan investment.
The UK has world-leading flexibility markets – with over 2GW of services available for the market to deliver – and Britain’s networks have made a Flexibility Commitment to use cost-efficient flexibility to relieve network congestion, but it’s important we continue to aid this progression. To support this the Open Networks project published a flexibility roadmap late last year, which provides a birds eye view of how we are delivering against our commitments to flexibility, actively resolving stakeholder issues and removing barriers to deliver a flexibility first approach. Flexibility will also play an instrumental role in supporting the roll out of EV and heat pumps at scale, at lowest cost for consumers.
All our flexibility work fits in to the wider DSO transition, as it’s vital we make sure we take everyone with us in this journey and deliver an energy system that works for all.
More broadly, recent significant government launches – including the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan, the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget and the Energy White Paper – means we now have clear policy pathways for UK decarbonisation.
2021: A year of action
This will be another year of action and delivery for the association ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, and earlier this month ENA announced that members – working closely with Ofgem – have drawn up plans to unlock early investment in the grid to support the technologies of tomorrow to be delivered quickly, driving green jobs and green growth across Great Britain. As part of this ENA launched a call for local authorities, developers, and other parties to state the case as to why extra capacity in their locality should be selected for investment. The call for evidence will be open for six weeks, closing on 19th March.
It’s exciting that Britain is now better positioned than ever before to tackle the important and ambitious target of achieving Net Zero by 2050. The energy networks will continue to provide the backbone of decarbonisation and the shift to net zero emissions and the Open Networks Project is playing a pivotal role in helping to support this move.
Because of this it remains important that we engage with stakeholders to ensure we are considering all positions. With this in mind we held a public consultation webinar on our 2021 Work Plan earlier this month to provide an overview of products and key deliverables for each work and feedback is welcomed from everyone, no matter the length or format.
The consultation closes on 1st March and if you would like to respond to the consultation, please submit your response to [email protected].