Energy industry defines future of electricity networks in major step towards smart grid

A major energy industry project has taken a significant step forward today, as the operators of the country’s electricity networks formally set out for the first time how the role of our local electricity networks will change as the UK’s smart energy grid becomes a reality.

Innovation by our energy networks has already enabled close to £1bn of cost savings that will be delivered between now and 2023, clearly demonstrating the economic potential of smarter networks.

The Open Networks Project, led by Energy Networks Association, is a major initiative that is in the process of re-defining how our energy networks will operate in the future as we head into a new smart era. The changes it will make will give the UK’s households, businesses and communities the ability to take advantage of a new range of energy technologies and services to take control of their energy and lower their costs, including renewable generation, battery storage and electric vehicles.

The Project brings together the leading minds in the UK energy industry, including all of the UK’s electricity network operators, including National Grid, respected academics, NGOs, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the energy regulator Ofgem. The project is led and facilitated by Energy Networks Association.

Unveiling the changes at the Future of the UK Smart Grid Summit in London today, Director of Policy Tony Glover will say:

“Defining the changes to our local electricity networks will not only ensure that UK consumers will continue to get the kind of reliability and performance that the UK’s energy networks are renowned for as we head into a new smart era, but it will also create a platform for exciting new opportunities for them to engage in the energy market, enabling households and businesses to have greater control over their electricity and unlock the potential from new technologies like battery storage and electric vehicles in their everyday lives.”

The changes to this role is based around four principles:

  • That local networks are non-discriminatory and technology neutral: favouring solutions that provide the most optimal solutions rather than particular technologies;
  • That they use market mechanisms that are fair, transparent and competitive, providing a level playing-field for providers of network services and providers of energy products / services in order to deploy the most efficient and effective solutions;
  • That they support flexibility and innovation in responding to customer future requirements and in developing the network services they require, including enabling and facilitating innovation by others; and
  • That they deliver value and service to a range of customers and communities

The role of local electricity networks – also known as Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) – has begun to change in recent years as new energy technologies and services have been deployed across the country. As a result of these changes, local networks have started to move away from their traditional role of delivering electricity from large power stations connected to the national electricity network, to playing a far more active role in managing local electricity generation and use.

This shift has created a whole host of new opportunities, both for the more intelligent management of our networks and for networks to act as a platform for the greater deployment of smart energy technologies, with all the benefits that they bring for customers. Defining the role of electricity networks, so that DNOs will come to be known as Distribution System Operators (DSOs), is a key part of taking advantage of those opportunities.

Under the definition announced today:

  • A Distribution System Operator (DSO) securely operates and develops an active distribution system comprising networks, demand, generation and other flexible distributed energy resources (DER).
  • It acts as a neutral facilitator of an open and accessible market, enabling competitive access to markets and the optimal use of DER on distribution networks to deliver security, sustainability and affordability in the support of whole system optimisation.
  • It enables customers to be both producers and consumers; enabling customer access, customer choice and great customer service.


Notes for Editors

  • Energy Networks Association is the voice of the networks, representing the UK’s 15 gas and electricity transmission and distribution networks.
  • ENA members serve over 30 million customers in all corners of the UK, whilst managing £62bn of assets that employ 30,000 people in communities across the country.
  • By 2020 the UK’s energy networks will have delivered £80bn of investment since 1990, whilst reducing costs to the customer by 17%.
  • In the next six years alone they are forecast by Ofgem to deliver £45bn of investment across the UK.
  • Ofgem surveys consistently put customer satisfaction levels are more than 80%, higher than many of the UK’s leading high street retail brands.
  • For further information please contact:


Matthew Pringle

UK and European Communications Manager

Energy Networks Association

Direct Email: [email protected]

Press Team: [email protected]

M: +44 (0) 7792 220 974