£90m energy innovation competition kicked off by energy network companies

Date: Monday 3rd September 2018

Release: Immediate

Up to £90m of investment is up for grabs for Britain’s leading energy innovators this week, as energy network companies launch the first ever Call for Ideas for the Network Innovation Competition (NIC).

The Call, which is for companies interested in working with Britain’s gas and electricity network operators to develop bids for the funding, is being run by Energy Networks Association (ENA). ENA represents the companies responsible for operating the ‘wires and pipes’ of Britain’s energy network infrastructure. Successful applicants will work with network companies to compete for up to £20 million of funding available for gas network projects and up to £70 million available for electricity network projects.

Research from the National Infrastructure Commission has identified up to £8bn of savings a year that can be made from energy networks investing in innovative smart power technologies. KPMG research also shows that using new innovation projects to evolve both our gas and electricity networks to help decarbonise our economy could save consumers as much as £214bn by 2050 compared to a full or near-full electrification scenario.

The annual Competition is designed to support a range of large scale energy innovation projects in communities across the country. Run by Ofgem, network companies and their partners will compete for funding for the development and demonstration of new energy technologies that will help run energy network infrastructure in a smarter, cleaner and more flexible way. Recent examples include the OpenLV project, which enables open access to local network electricity demand data, and the H21 project, a nationwide project which aims to build an evidence-base on the conversion of gas distribution networks to transport low-carbon hydrogen.

Proposals must provide a clear cost benefit to the public, cost benefits to the running of the networks, environmental benefits and demonstrate genuine innovation. They will need to fit with the priority areas or one of the possible cross-sector areas, such as whole system planning, set out in the Gas and Electricity Network Innovation Strategies published earlier this year.

Potential applicants can also find out more information about existing innovation projects and meet network operators to discuss potential projects at this year’s Low Carbon Network Innovation (LCNI) Conference, the UK’s largest smart grid conference, which takes place in Telford on 16-17 October.

David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association says:

“This is an exciting chance for innovators to deliver projects that will make a real difference to the way networks operate in communities up and down the country. Network innovation is vital to keeping energy bills down for the public, whilst delivering a smarter, cleaner and more flexible energy system that serves the country. We want to hear from the widest range of energy innovators as possible to help deliver that.”

Phillip New, CEO of Energy Systems Catapult, says:

“We are seeing extraordinary changes across the energy system, in particular in how our networks manage the shift to more low carbon and decentralised energy. This programme gives innovative companies the important chance to road test new ideas and trial them at scale.”

The call for ideas opens on 3 September and closes on 26 October at 5pm. Applications can be made on Energy Networks Association’s Network Innovation Collaboration Portal.


Notes to editors

  • Energy Networks Association (ENA) represents the companies that operate and maintain the gas and electricity grid network in the UK and Ireland.
  • Serving over 30 million customers, they are responsible for the transmission and distribution network of “wires and pipes” that keep our lights on, our homes warm and our businesses running.
  • Since 2004, over 1,300 innovation projects have been delivered across both gas and electricity networks, allowing network operators to better understand how to integrate new energy technologies such as electric vehicles, renewable distributed generation and decarbonised sources of gas into our energy system.
  • Innovation is a key element of the existing RIIO price control mechanism. One of the principal processes to encourage innovation in the energy industry is through an annual competition for funding known as the Network Innovation Competition (NIC), which is provided to Networks by Ofgem.
  • The NIC is an annual opportunity for gas and electricity network companies to compete for funding for the development and demonstration of new technologies and new operating and commercial arrangements.
    • It is typically applicable to large-scale projects and funding will be provided for the best innovation projects which help the network operators understand what they need to do to facilitate innovation as we move to a low carbon economy.
  • Before submitting an idea innovators should ensure it meets the Gas and/or Electricity NIC Governance Document.
  • Applications can be made on ENA’s Network Innovation Collaboration Portal.
  • KPMG research conducted on behalf of ENA has shown that a scenario based on evolving both our gas and electricity networks to help decarbonise our economy could save consumers as much as £214bn by 2050 compared to a full or near-full electrification scenario. A copy of the report can be found online here.
    • For projects that work with both the gas and electricity networks and gas, the allocation of funding will depend on the expected benefits of the project.
    • The networks are interested in ideas which relate to the areas identified in the Gas and Electricity Network Innovation Strategies as well as the following cross-vector areas:
      • Whole system planning & forecasting
      • Network resilience
      • Flexible networks
      • Communications
      • Power to gas
      • Community Energy
  • Tickets for the LCNI Conference can be bought here.
  • More information on the OpenLV project can be found online here
  • More information on the H21 project can be found online here.
  • For more information please contact:
  • The National Infrastructure Commission Smart Power report was published in March 2016 and can be found online here.
  • The Gas Network Innovation Strategy, and an Executive Summary of the Strategy, can be found online here.
  • The Electricity Network Innovations Strategy can be found online here.

Ed Gill

UK & European Head of Press and Public Affairs

Energy Networks Association

T: +44 (0) 20 7706 5157

M: +44 (0) 7725 372 758