New smart technologies are challenging the traditional way we generate, consume and manage electricity, and the energy networks are making sure that these changes benefit everyone.
We’re helping transition to a smart, flexible system that connects large-scale energy generation right down to the solar panels and electric vehicles installed in homes, businesses and communities right across the country. This is often referred to as the smart grid.
The Open Networks programme has brought together the nine electricity grid operators in the UK and Ireland to work together to standardise customer experiences and align processes to make connecting to the networks as easy as possible and bring record amounts of renewable distributed energy resources, like wind and solar panels, to the local electricity grid.
We’re also working with the UK Government (through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), the energy regulator Ofgem, respected academics and industry trade associations.
We test key developments with experts, as well as seeking broader views through consultations, stakeholder forums, webinars and guest presentations.
The UK has a dynamic energy environment ranging from solar farms in sunny Cornwall to the offshore wind farms in Kent and the Moray Firth, and all the local generation projects in-between. As homes and businesses adopt these smarter technologies and connect them to the local distribution networks, how these resources are integrated and support the networks will define the future smart grid and ensure the overall grid is equipped to deliver the energy we rely on well into the future.
As demand patterns shift as a result of new technologies such as electric vehicles and heat pumps, and more local renewable power is connected, network operators will play a more active role in managing and operating their networks, allowing them to address periods of high and low demand and power outages more efficiently, including paying customers to help support the networks with their flexible solutions.
Areas of focus
The pace of change Open Networks is delivering is unprecedented in the industry, and to make sure the transformation of the networks becomes a reality, we have created six workstreams under Open Networks to progress the delivery of the smart grid.
Each year, the project produces a forward work plan and a Project Initiation Document to set out the priories and direction. The final document is informed through consultation with industry, giving everyone a chance to feed in on priorities and timescales for the project.
For 2021 the project’s work areas are below and you can find resources specific to each focus area on the relevant page:
- WS1A: Flexibility Services
- WS1B: Whole Electricity System Planning
- WS2: Customer Connections
- WS3: DSO Transition
- WS4: Whole Energy Systems
- WS5: Communications and Stakeholder Engagement
We want to bring the project to the industry, making sure to get as much input as possible to build an all-inclusive energy system.
To help guide the work of the programme, a Dissemination Forum will be introduced in 2022 for anyone to join. It is being created to give stakeholders the opportunity to engage broadly with Open Networks, stay up to date with the latest developments and to provide input into it. This forum will be facilitated quarterly and will cover all areas of work across the programme.
We welcome all interested parties to join this forum, and you can sign up via our online form.
This Forum, together with another stakeholder group titled a 'Challenge Group' which will have representation from experts across industry and will also commence in 2022, will replace the programme’s Advisory Group.
We will publish a full list of members of the Challenge Group in early 2022. If you would like to raise anything at one of our meetings or provide feedback on the agenda items we're discussing, do get in touch with one of the Open Networks project team.
Each year we identify a range of high priority items based on your feedback and consult the whole industry for views on these developments. This feedback is incredibly important and we seek and welcome responses from across the industry, in whatever format and level of detail.
If you would like to keep up to date on our latest consultations please visit the 'Open public consultations' section at the bottom of this page or sign up to our mailing list.
We host a series of public events, webinars, panel events and roundtables throughout the year to complement our consultations or specific items of work, all of which help steer the development of Open Networks products and deliverables. These are listed on our Events page.
The whole system challenges that we are looking to solve requires the right expertise. As the natural home for network collaboration, Open Networks draws on the expertise of each network company to lead this development work and has a significant number of representatives from each company developing and progressing all the necessary steps to build a grid that leaves nobody behind.
The project is overseen by the Steering Group, as well as drawing on expertise from our other committees. BEIS and Ofgem sit on the Steering Group.
Project management documents and resources
The sections below are a collection of project-wide resources and latest consultation documents.