Open Networks publishes proposals for Britain’s Internet of Energy

Date: 6 March 2019

The creation of smart grid in Britain has taken a major step forward today, as Energy Networks Association’s Open Networks Project publishes its proposed blueprint for the foundations of Britain’s Internet of Energy.

It comes as policymakers look for new solutions to tackle the difficult challenges of decarbonising Britain’s heat and transport, two of the economy’s hardest-to-decarbonise sectors. Smart energy technologies are widely recognised as having a vital role to play in helping meet those challenges, with the National Infrastructure Commission predicting that the British public could save as much £8bn per year from them by 2030.

Today’s announcement is part of an independent impact assessment report produced by global consultancy Baringa, which has examined five different models for how Britain’s electricity networks might underpin a smart grid might in the future, which has been dubbed an “Internet of Energy”. The assessment proposes a framework for national and local grid operators to redesign their operations to deliver a ‘Future World’.

The Future World proposed involves local and national electricity grid operators working more closely together to coordinate the use of new energy services, called flexibility services, which use smart energy technologies provided by Britain’s homes, businesses and communities. This will enable operators to run the grid in a smarter, more efficient and more flexible way, whilst giving the public new opportunities to benefit from a smart grid.

The World has been proposed because it will ensure that the public will be able to access benefits from Britain’s smart grid in the quickest and cheapest way possible. The pathways to that World demonstrate how that can be progressed whilst ensuring that grid operators can respond quickly and flexibly to new developments over the next ten years. They do so in a way that will allow for a potentially radical decentralisation of the way the electricity grid works if there is sufficient take up of new technologies, unlike the other options analysed by Baringa.

The changes will build on the progress made by the Open Networks Project to date, including the steps taken to boost the use of flexibility services in the market such as the launch of their first ever ‘Flexibility Commitment’ in late 2018., and the pathways set out in this independent report allows the industry to best react to wider energy market developments related to them. Other changes that have already been introduced include reforms of existing processes for managing the relationship between networks, improvements made to information available to customers, and ensuring that energy networks are at the heart of a more integrated, flexible energy system.

Longer-term, the success of this industry-wide transformation will be determined by the continued pace of uptake of distributed energy resources, such as solar PV and wind turbines, and the rising volume and value of flexibility services in the GB market.

The public consultation, open for eight weeks from today, seeks a wide range of stakeholder views on the findings of the newly released impact assessment report. Stakeholders are encouraged to attend a range of public events and webinars planned being held in April to learn more about the report:

  • Open consultation events in London and Glasgow on 8th and 10th April.
  • Webinars on 11th and 27th March.

Consultation events will include a ‘Response Surgery’, where members of the Open Networks team will be on hand to advise stakeholders on the key sections of the impact assessment consultation, the areas of most interest to them and on drafting a response. The Open Networks Project will also be holding a drop-in stand at this year’s Future of Utilities conference on 27th March.

All responses to the consultation must be submitted electronically to [email protected] by Wednesday 1 May 2019.

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

“This impact assessment provides a clear vision for Britain’s electricity networks to pave the way for a smarter, more flexible energy system. That system needs to be fit for the public’s hopes and aspirations as they take advantage of a range of new smart energy technologies that will give them more control over the energy they use.

“This vision is clear in its direction, but pragmatic in its nature. It will allow network operators to build on the progress they’ve made so far through the Open Networks Project to ensure the people can access the benefits of a smart grid as quickly as possible, whilst leaving the door open to more radical changes in the future.”

Duncan Sinclair, Partner for Energy, Utilities and Resources at Baringa, adds:

“The trends seen worldwide towards more renewables and greater electrification are putting strains on electricity networks, particularly at the distribution level as the system also becomes more decentralised.  Planning and operating the electricity networks is becoming increasingly complex, and in order to keep costs down, distribution system operators must maximise the use of flexible resources connected to their networks.  The ENA’s Open Networks project is exploring how best to do this, and it has identified five potential Future Worlds.  Our independent Impact Assessment of these Future Worlds is the first time an attempt has been made to understand the costs, benefits, strengths and weaknesses of the potential new models of distribution system operation.”

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Notes to editors

  • The Impact Assessment consultation can be found online on: http://www.energynetworks.org/electricity/futures/open-networks-project/future-worlds/future-worlds-impact-assessment.html
  • ENA is the voice of the networks representing the ‘wires and pipes’ transmission and distribution network operators for gas and electricity in the UK and Ireland.
    • The Open Networks Project is a major industry project that is laying the foundations of the smart grid by redefining the responsibilities of electricity network operators in Great Britain. It is also informing similar developments in Ireland. It brings together all of the UK and Ireland’s electricity network operators, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the energy regulator Ofgem, as well as leading academics, trade associations and NGOs.
    • With fully developed flexibility markets, examples of how smart energy technologies might be used by households and businesses 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.
      • In 2018 the project employed energy consultancy Baringa via a competitive tender to complete an independent impact assessment to assess the relative costs and benefits of five Future Worlds, potential structures for GB’s future electricity system.
      • The potential benefits of the five Future Worlds were assessed using the two National Grid Future Energy Scenarios which would meet the Government’s 2050 climate change targets, including the Two Degree scenario which uses larger and more centralised energy technologies and the Community Renewables scenario which is more decentralised and community-focused.
      • In addition, they were assessed in a structure aligned with Government best practice and against over 30 criteria including customer experience, environmental sustainability, whole system optimisation, technical performance and industry structure and organisation.
        • The publication of the impact assessment follows the summer 2018 Open Networks Project Future Worlds consultation, which presented a wide range of options for the future structure of electricity networks. You can find out more about this consultation here.
        • To stay up to date with Open Networks Project developments, subscribe to mailing list by emailing [email protected].
          • For further information please contact:

Dan Clelland
Press and Public Affairs

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W: www.energynetworks.org

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