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Decarbonisation and decision making: how networks can make the most of connected assets

19 February 2021


Simon Brooke, Acting Head of Distribution System Operation Transition at Electricity North West writes about the Common Evaluation Methodology developed through ENA’s Open Networks Project, and how it boosts market confidence and expands opportunities for customers.

It’s been hard to miss the massive changes that the energy industry has been through over the last couple of years. Whether you’re an industry expert or just an energy consumer, we’re all thinking longer and harder about how we use energy, and how we can change to help reach net zero emissions.

For the UK’s energy networks, that means improving how we decide what we do when faced with a need to take action to manage a constraint on the network. When technology on the networks reaches safe capacity to carry energy, it can act like a bottle neck; these are constraints, and mean we have to take action so the systems keeps operating at its most efficient.

Through ENA’s Open Networks Project, we’ve developed and published a Common Evaluation Methodology that helps the networks get the right solution on to the network when faced by a constraints, by assessing different potential options. The methodology is capable of assessing the costs and benefits of procuring Flexibility services or using Active Network Management (ANM) or an energy efficiency programme against traditional network reinforcement, to get to the best solution for the system, and most cost-effective outcome for bill payers.

The common methodology is now with all DNOs and will be adopted nation-wide from April. It ensures that DNOs are evaluating options consistently and transparently and creating a level playing field across the country for anyone to participate in and realise additional value from their connected smart technology – key in the opening and implementation of flexibility markets and something all networks committed to in Our six steps for delivering flexibility services.

The improved decision-making approach was developed by independent consultants Baringa Partners, and gives networks a quantitative assessment of the alternative options that can be used to address constraints. This opens up more opportunities for renewables, storage, demand side response, and more distributed energy sources to participate, driving down carbon.

Opening local markets for flexibility services remains a major focus of the Open Networks Project for 2021, but building these markets requires consumers to have the confidence to participate. Having a standard decision-making process across the country means that those wishing to pitch-in and provide services to the networks know exactly what criteria will be used to assess their solution no matter the location.

Developing this common approach through the project has allowed us to bring together expertise from across the country, and through extensive input from the industry and potential users, to make sure everyone can realise the benefits. We’ve designed this tool to be enduring and it will be under open governance arrangements at ENA from 2021, with all potential changes discussed at a forum that includes stakeholders to reflect industry views in any decisions. Throughout 2021, the product team will look to build further, important considerations into the tool, such as optionality and carbon impact assessment. Also to come this year is a Network Capacity Signposting Report that will help customers identify where future needs will be that will trigger the evaluation process and therefore have the opportunity to offer services down the road when they are needed.

The UK’s energy networks have committed to a level playing field across the country, and our Common Evaluation Methodology is a significant step forward in building confidence in new local marekts. Reaching net zero carbon emissions remains our top priority, and with the publication and adoption of this methodology networks now have more low carbon options to help address climate change.

Press contacts for journalists

Daniel Clelland

Communications Manager

Energy Networks Association

020 7706 5186

+44 (0) 7885 998360

ENA Press Office


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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