Electricity flexibility commitment powers Britain forward towards Net Zero

Date: 20 June 2019

Britain will take a major step forward to creating the smarter, cleaner energy system needed to deliver the new 2050 Net Zero target today, as the country’s electricity grid operators unveil a new flexibility commitment to help shape the way network infrastructure will be run.

Published by Energy Networks Association (ENA), Our Six Steps for Delivering Flexibility Services sets out exactly how grid operators will run new ‘flexibility markets’ across the country. These markets will use the latest smart energy technologies in our homes, businesses and communities to boost network capacity in Britain’s electricity grid for connecting renewable energy projects like wind or solar farms, electric vehicle charging points and heat pumps for decarbonised heating.

With fully developed markets, examples of how technologies might be used by households and businesses to help increase the capacity of the grid include:

  • Households charging their electric vehicles at off-peak times or when it is sunniest, whilst other households’ domestic solar panels are generating electricity.
  • Businesses striking demand-side response agreements to adjust their electricity use at the times of day when they least need it, helping reduce the need and cost of building new infrastructure.
  • Using battery storage to help network operators proactively manage a rapidly changing electricity grid where electricity now flows in many different directions, rather than in just one as it has done in the past.

Our Six Steps for Delivering Flexibility Services outlines how these markets will work in practice. It ensures that they are open and transparent for all to participate in, creating new opportunities and a level playing field for energy suppliers, aggregators and customers to procure and deliver clean energy. The announcement builds on the Flexibility Commitment made by grid operators in December 2018, to help boost the use of smart energy technologies to reduce the need for building new electricity grid infrastructure. Local flexibility markets using new and innovative technologies have been growing steadily as the uptake of smart energy technology increases in people’s homes and businesses.

As smart technologies for energy generation and storage have improved, and local clean energy markets have grown, the UK has emerged as a world leader of ‘flexibility services’ which could save bill payers up to £8 billion a year by 2030, according to the National Infrastructure Commission, as well as opening new competitive markets for flexibility. Britain’s energy networks have been responsible for connecting record levels renewable energy projects in recent years that have seen them generate a third of electricity in the country in 2018. Under ENA’s Open Networks Project, networks are working together to deliver the smart grid and harmonise these local energy markets across Great Britain. The learn-by-doing approach of the project has fed into the development of Our Six Steps for Delivering Flexibility Services, but also allows the project to further understand best practice and ensure the nationwide benefits are delivered to all Britain’s homes and businesses.

Commenting, David Smith, Chief Executive of ENA, says:

“With the 2050 Net Zero target being put into law, it’s more important than ever to get the fundamentals of our new energy system right. The commitment made by the networks today sets out the role that smart technology in people’s homes, businesses and communities can play in building a grid that can help deliver that target.

“Expanding local energy markets will bring big economic and environmental benefits, and continue to deliver the world class energy system we rely on every day. These steps further highlight the networks’ commitment to finding innovative, customer-led market solutions to decarbonise the grid and drive down costs.

“Boosting grid capacity will see more energy from cleaner sources. These steps will lay the foundations of an Internet of Energy that maximises the potential of new smart technologies, for the benefit of all.”

Notes to Editors

  • Energy Networks Association represents the companies that are responsible for operating the ‘wires and pipes’ of Britain’s gas and electricity network infrastructure, serving over 30 million customers across the country.
  • The six practical principles, agreed to by Britain’s six Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), GTC (IDNO), the Transmission Owners (TOs) and National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), outline a consistent and transparent way the networks will run competitive tenders, agree contracts and use flexibility services to manage the grid.
  • The full text of the Flexibility Commitment: Our Six Steps for Delivering Flexibility Services can be found here.
  • The principles adopted today will be fundamental in defining how the public, businesses and networks interact in the future by:
    • Championing a level playing field;
    • Ensuring visibility and accessibility;
    • Conducting procurement in an open and transparent manner;
    • Providing clarity on the dispatch of services;
    • Providing regular, consistent and transparent reporting;
    • Working together towards whole energy system outcomes.
  • As a world leader in clean energy, this commitment builds on the work of ENA’s Open Networks Project, where the long-term roles and responsibilities of Britain’s local electricity networks are being redefined as new competitive markets for flexibility open up. ENA and its member electricity organisations has worked extensively and inclusively with stakeholders, sharing our flexibility developments and listening to wide reaching feedback at every step to arrive at these commitments. Further feedback will be sought through the forthcoming Open Networks flexibility consultation this summer.

Key facts about Britain’s energy network companies:

  • Local electricity generation: Over 30GW of largely renewable electricity generation is now connected to Britain’s local electricity grids, generating a quarter of Britain’s electricity.
  • Customer satisfaction: Regular satisfaction surveys conducted by Ofgem with a range of customers show consistent satisfaction of more than 87% in the services provided by network companies, putting networks above any energy supply company, higher than many high-street retailers and amongst the very best performers in the UK Customer Satisfaction Index.
  • Value for money: Network companies are responsible for operating and maintaining 1 million km of electricity cables and 272,000km of gas pipelines across the UK at a cost of around 35p per day.
  • Vulnerable customers: Distribution networks now provide extra support and care to over six million vulnerable customers on their Priority Services Registers. So far in RIIO-GD1, gas distribution networks have helped 64,100 households with their fuel bills under the Fuel Poor Extension Scheme
  • Safety: Safety has improved considerably since privatisation. Total Recordable Incident Rate for electricity network staff shows a tenfold improvement since 1990.
  • Reliability: An average customer would have a power cut less than every two years which will last for 35 minutes. Gas network customers experience an unplanned interruption to their supply once every 140 years.
  • Jobs: Directly employing 36,000 people, the energy networks have a vital role in supporting UK plc.

For further information please contact:

Dan Clelland
Press and Public Affairs

Direct Email: [email protected] 
Press Team: [email protected]

T: +44 (0)207 706 5168

W: www.energynetworks.org