New figures reveal Britain’s electricity distribution networks have tendered record levels of local flexibility for four years running. Flexibility decreases the need for network reinforcement, reducing costs for customers and connecting low-carbon technology quicker.
Figures published by Energy Networks Association (ENA), which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses, show that in the past 12 months 3.7GW1 of distribution network flexibility has been tendered, an increase of 31% since last year, and a 76% increase since 20202. This is set to increase further in the coming year.
This year’s current tendered flexibility will enable networks to free up almost 4GW of capacity to manage network congestion. That is the equivalent of supporting the connection of over half a million 7kW electric vehicle charge points, or providing electricity to over four million homes across the UK, with no new cabling required.
Britain’s local flexibility markets are the largest in the world, tendering and contracting increasing flexibility year on year. Increased flexibility plays a key role in delivering a more efficient, cost-effective and decarbonised grid, particularly as renewables increasingly shape the UK’s energy mix, as well as the widescale roll out of electric vehicles and heat pumps.
Greater flexibility provides an alternative solution to traditional investment that would otherwise be required to solve congestion on the grid. This allows networks to continue reducing costs for customers by enabling more energy innovators to take part in tenders.
Looking forward, DNOs are still looking for over 2GW of flexibility over the next 12 months. We also expect more tenders to be released during this period, and hence there are still significant opportunities for growth for flexibility service providers.
This flexibility boom has been driven through ENA’s world-leading Open Networks programme, which brings together all of Britain’s network companies and industry stakeholders to help transform the way our energy networks operate – creating the ‘smart grid’.
Farina Farrier, Head of Open Networks at ENA, said:
“Britain’s energy networks are powering forward further and faster than ever in expanding flexibility across the grid. As we transition towards a smarter and more flexible energy system, flexibility will increasingly play a key role, with the network geared towards facilitating a two-way relationship between consumer and grid.
“Flexibility and new infrastructure investment will play a joint role in enabling the diversification and decarbonisation of the energy grid. That’s why early and vital investment in the network alongside these local flexibility markets remains crucial to ensuring we continue to deliver the best value for consumers and businesses.”
Notes to editor
2022 Flexibility consultation
These figures have been published ahead of ENA’s wide-reaching consultation on flexibility, which launches on Monday 1 August and is open for six weeks. The consultation will consist of a range of stakeholder activities, including an overview webinar on Tuesday 16 August, an online panel session hosted by Business Green on Tuesday 23 August and a dedicated session for Community Energy representatives on Thursday 8 September – details of these can be found on ENA’s Events page. The ENA team is welcoming responses from the energy industry and beyond on how the project can further drive standardisation in local energy markets right across the country.
- 1Tendered flexibility for 2021/2022 is calculated by adding together the following figures: Sustain (57 MW), Secure (840 MW), Dynamic (1584 MW), Restore (1149 MW) and Reactive (5 MVAr). This totals 3635 MW = 3.63 GW.
- 2 ENA figures show that electricity networks tendered 3.63 GW of flexibility in 2021/2022, 2.76 GW of flexibility in 2021, and 2.1 GW in 2020.
- The latest round of collated flexibility procurement figures are available on ENA's Flexibility services web page.
- For the first time, DNOs operating flexibility have individually published figures including technology type split, license area breakdown and carbon reporting for full transparency and accountability. They are available for access on each members’ websites.
- Calculations estimating average GW per household are based on Government data which states that 11 GW is capable of powering approximately 12m homes, as seen in this recent BEIS press release.
- Data on the average kilowattage of a domestic solar panel is taken from the Centre for Alternative Technology.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the companies which operate the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 45,000 people in the UK and Ireland. They are represented by their industry body, Energy Networks Association (that's us).