Major new consultation launched on Future Worlds for UK and Ireland’s smart grid

For immediate release – Wednesday 1st August 2018

Energy Networks Association’s Open Networks Project has today launched a major new consultation on electricity networks’ plans to deliver a smarter, more flexible and more decentralised energy system, a change which could save consumers as much as £40bn by 2050.

Ofgem, BEIS, and all 10 of UK and Ireland’s electricity network operators are part of the industry-wide project, which is laying the foundations of the smart grid in Great Britain by redefining the way electricity networks work. The project will also inform similar developments in the Single Electricity Market in Ireland.

The consultation published today seeks industry views on five models – the ‘Future Worlds’ - for delivering this change, presenting a wide range of options for the structure of electricity networks that go beyond those proposals made by the recent Cost of Energy Review. In all five worlds, traditional forms of infrastructure such as pylons and substations will have to work alongside smart energy flexibility services to manage the electricity grid, that use new consumer technologies such as electric vehicles, smart meters, battery storage and solar panels. Research conducted by Imperial College London and The Carbon Trust shows that these services could deliver up to £40bn of benefits across the energy system by 2050.

The Future Worlds, developed through a series of stakeholder workshops, range from a decentralised energy system where local electricity grids enable regional energy markets to balance supply and demand at a local level, to a more centralised system where co-ordinating local energy resources is the responsibility of the national System Operator. They also include a world where new independent national or regional organisations, labelled Flexibility Co-ordinators, co-ordinate flexibility services for the electricity networks.

Following feedback from the consultation, each of the models will be submitted to an Impact Assessment that will inform the project’s work.

David Smith, CEO of Energy Networks Association, comments:

“The Open Networks Project is transforming the way our electricity networks work, unlocking a whole new range of benefits for households and businesses across the country.

“These Future Worlds represent a major change from the way our networks operate today, as they pioneer new ways to decarbonise our energy system to deliver new opportunities and reduced costs for households and businesses across the country.

“This consultation is key, not only to ensuring that we have considered the best options but also to ensure all stakeholders have their say in shaping the future of the electricity networks.

The consultation also focuses on 23 key stakeholders in each of the future worlds, describing their role, how their roles and responsibilities will evolve to meet the challenges of decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation, and how the five different Future Worlds will affect each of them.”

Two dedicated stakeholder events are being hosted, in Edinburgh (29th August) and London (3rd September), where stakeholders will be able to engage directly with the project team to better understand the Future Worlds, the Smart Grid Architecture Model (SGAM) methodology that we have used to define the worlds and ask questions about the consultation and the Open Networks Project.

Two webinars, open to all interested parties, are planned for the 21st August and 13th September with the project leaders, designed to give those interested a one-stop shop opportunity to ask questions directly and to submit live feedback.

Randolph Brazier, ENA Head of Innovation and Development, said: “As we move towards our smart decentralised systems of the future, many stakeholders will see significant change and evolution of their roles. For some, these changes will be largely consistent across these five future worlds, but for others there is considerable difference. Stakeholder feedback is therefore key to this consultation, and we invite stakeholders to give us feedback on how we’ve envisaged their roles in these future worlds, and which world they believe works best for them and consumers.”

The consultation documents can be found online at the ENA website here.

Respondents can submit feedback electronically to [email protected] until 6pm on the 25th September 2018.


Notes to editors

  • A copy of the Future Worlds consultation, and more details on the webinars and stakeholder events can be found online here.
  • “An analysis of electricity system flexibility for Great Britain”, produced by Imperial College London and The Carbon Trust for the Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan shows that the UK could save £17-40bn across the electricity system by 2050 by deploying flexibility technologies. The paper was originally published in November 2016 and can be found online here.
  • The five Future Worlds are:
    • World A: Distribution System Operator (DSO) coordinates – a world where the DSO acts as the neutral market facilitator for all DER and provides services on a locational basis to National Grid in its role as the Electricity System Operator (ESO) 
    • World B: Co-ordinated DSO - ESO procurement and dispatch – a world where DSO and ESO work together to efficiently manage networks through co-ordinated procurement and dispatch of flexibility resource 
    • World C: Price driven flexibility – a world where changes developed through Ofgem’s reform of electricity network access and forward-looking charges’ have improved access arrangements and forward looking signals for customers 
    • World D: ESO coordinates – a world where the ESO is the counterparty for Distributed Energy Resource (DER) with DSO’s informing the ESO of their requirements 
    • World E: Flexibility coordinator(s) – a world where a new national (or potentially regional) third party acts as the neutral market facilitator for DER providing efficient services to the ESO and/or DSO as required
  • The consultation comprises sections with information and questions for response on: 
    • The five potential Future Worlds for electricity networks 
    • Details of the Smart Grid Architecture Model (SGAM) methodology and how it was used to build models of the five potential future worlds 
    • The Principle of Neutral Market Facilitation 
    • Insights for 23 industry stakeholders, and their roles in the future worlds 
    • Details on how the future worlds will be assessed, and the evidence base to be presented to Ofgem and BEIS 
    • Key enablers for the future worlds 
    • Proposed next steps 
  • The Open Networks Project does not make any assumptions about methods of ownership for any proposed entities set out as part of the Future Worlds consultation, instead focussing on the technical requirements of each scenario. 
  • The Impact Assessments will be published in December 2018.
  • In December 2016, Energy Networks Association (ENA) members gave their commitment to the Open Networks Project, a major collaboration that will transform the way that both local Distribution Networks and national Transmission Networks will operate and work for customers. 
  • Launched in January 2017, ENA’s Open Networks Project is a key initiative to deliver Government policy set out in the Ofgem and BEIS Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan, the Government’s Industrial Strategy and the Clean Growth Plan, working in collaboration with Ofgem, BEIS, 10 of UK and Ireland’s electricity network operators, and other key stakeholders.
  • The roles and responsibilities of network companies are changing as they respond to the deployment of new types of smart and renewable energy technology connected at a local rather than a national level. These changes mean that Distribution Network Operators are moving from their traditional role of simply distributing electricity to playing a more active role managing supply and demand locally. At the same time the role of National Grid as System Operator is also changing to facilitate the transition to a more decentralised, low carbon system. The Open Networks Project will describe the new roles and responsibilities required to support the transition to a smarter, more efficient electricity network. 
  • In December 2017, the Project announced a joint commitment to create new markets to enable flexibility services that will compete alongside traditional investment, in the, ‘Opening Markets for Network Flexibility’ report, which can be found online here.

For more information about the ENA Open Networks Project, its workstreams, products and the stakeholder engagement process, please visit the website here.

For press inquiries please contact:

Casey Sattler
Press and Public Affairs Officer
Energy Networks Association

E: [email protected]
T: +44 (0) 20 7706 5115