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Community energy groups help shape energy system transition

21 October 2020


Building the future smart energy grid requires collaboration with the whole industry, and Energy Networks Association’s Community Energy Forums provide a dedicated opportunity for community groups to have their say.

Last week ENA’s Open Networks Project concluded its series of Community Energy Forums, a meeting for community groups to bring thoughts and barriers straight to the networks at an important time as they build the nations smart grid. Community groups can sometimes be under-represented; however, these forums allow for the Open Networks Project to speak directly with the groups impacted, ensuring their issues are heard and solutions are found.

The meetings covered a wide range of areas and projects that ENA is working on, and gave the chance for community groups the lead the discussion:

  • The Open Networks Project and the transition to the smart grid
  • Innovation and project funding
  • Energy network data
  • Whole energy systems and Gas Goes Green
  • Significant Code Review

The forums also gave community groups a chance to respond to the Open Networks public consultation on Flexibility Services. Community groups are passionate about getting to net zero carbon emissions and want to see local projects play a big part in meeting our new climate targets. Getting views from these groups and representatives has been incredibly valuable to the Project as it looks to deliver further standardisation across the country; through outputs that include a standardised contract for flexibility procurement used by all DNOs, and a common evaluation methodology for using flexibility on the network over active network management.

Committed to late last year following a series of successful summer roundtables, for the 2020 Community Energy Forums ENA worked with community energy and engagement specialists Regen and Community Energy England to hold forums remotely over Zoom.

Across all three forums, a total of 39 community energy representatives from all over the country joined to provide direct feedback on ENA’s work. The future of energy is as local as it is national and getting community energy further integrated into the project will help Britain transition to a smart grid that works for all.

Commenting on the success of the forums Randolph Brazier, Head of Innovation and Development at Energy Networks Association, which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses said:

“Community energy groups are a vital part of the shift to net zero carbon emissions, and these Community Energy Forums allow us to discuss the practicality of industry and communities working together to get the right infrastructure in the right place at the right time to bring down our emissions.”

“I’m delighted that our first year running these Community Energy Forums has been such a great success, and we’re excited to already be planning the forums for 2021; looking to include more topics and experts in future discussions.”

Adding further, Merlin Hyman, Chief Executive of Regen, said:

“As we work towards net zero emissions it is vital that we engage local communities in the decisions about the future of our energy system. We are, therefore, delighted to be working with the ENA on these forums where community energy groups can learn about how our energy networks are adapting to net zero and, most importantly, make their voice heard.”

Press contacts for journalists

Peter Kocen

Senior Press and Public Affairs Manager

+44 (0)7792 220 974

ENA Press Office


Notes to editor

  • The Open Networks Project brings together electricity transmission and distribution network companies with industry stakeholders, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the energy regulator Ofgem, to lay the foundations for the smart grid in Great Britain and inform future developments Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
  • Regen is a not-for-profit centre of energy expertise and market insight whose mission is to transform the world’s energy systems for a zero-carbon future.
  • Community energy refers to the delivery of community-led renewable energy, energy demand reduction and energy supply projects, whether wholly owned and/or controlled by communities or through partnership with commercial or public sector partners.
    • Community energy has the potential to draw people in, not just as consumers but also as active participants, or partners, in a process of change.
  • Examples of flexibility services include:
    • Households charging their electric vehicles at off-peak times or when it is sunniest, whilst other households’ domestic solar panels are generating electricity.
    • Businesses striking demand-side response agreements to adjust their electricity use at the times of day when they least need it, helping reduce the need and cost of building new infrastructure.
    • Using battery storage to help network operators proactively manage a rapidly changing electricity grid where electricity now flows in many different directions, rather than in just one as it has done in the past.
  • More information on the flexibility consultation, including the questions asked of respondents, can be found in the consultation document.
  • ENA’s Gas Goes Green programme will deliver the world’s first zero carbon gas grid, helping meet the UK’s net zero carbon emissions target. Bringing together the engineering expertise of Britain’s five gas network companies with the wider energy industry, policymakers, and academics. The programme will make the changes needed to move Britain's gas network infrastructure from delivering methane-based natural gas to zero carbon hydrogen and biomethane.

About Energy Networks Association

Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing 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 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 40,000 people in Great Britain.

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