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ENA sets out ambitious programme of work for Open Networks

18 January 2021

2020 was a challenging year, but the urgency of hitting net zero carbon emissions has remained. ENA’s Open Networks Project has built momentum throughout the past year, and in 2021 will continue to drive the key changes and innovation needed to transition to a net zero emissions smart grid.


Today ENA’s Open Networks Project launches two key publications: the 2021 Work Plan and consultation and the 2020 End of Year Review. The annual 2020 End of Year Review reflects on the progress made over the past 12 months and the 2021 Work Plan sets out a comprehensive view of the ambitious direction the project will take throughout the year and the outcomes it will achieve.

The workplan sets out priorities and timetables for key deliverables, and the consultation gives stakeholders from industry and beyond an opportunity to shape the direction and priorities of the project in 2021. The 6-week public consultation on the scope of work closes on 1 March 2021.

Now beginning its fifth year, the Open Networks Project has helped Britain to become a superpower of renewable energy. By implementing and standardising processes and practices where possible, the UKs energy networks are powering the ultimate goal of net zero carbon emissions. This year Open Networks will build on the momentum gained to deliver further improvements.

The project will expand its focus on its industry leading work on Flexibility Services, continue to deliver Distribution System Operation functionality and transparently report progress through the DSO Implementation Plan, improve the customer connections process, and deliver Whole Energy Systems Efficiencies. In 2021 the project will also move a number of products to open governance and change management to allow for enduring solutions that can be updated and refreshed in response to industry feedback. The consultation on the workplan allows for stakeholders from across the industry to let ENA know what their priorities are for Open Networks in the year ahead.

Commenting on the announcement, David Smith, Chief Executive at Energy Networks Association which represents the UK and Ireland’s energy networks businesses said:

“The momentum Open Networks has built, and the pivotal role it plays in the energy transition, will continue into 2021 with further delivery and enhancements that will make interacting with our system as easy as possible. The workplan consultation announced today allows stakeholders to directly shape the priorities and timelines for the project this year.

“2021 will be a year of action and delivery ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, and the Open Networks Project looks forward to collaborating with the whole industry, from BEIS and Ofgem to community groups all over the country, to deliver the vital changes to deliver net zero emissions.”

The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced the urgency of Britain’s transition to a smart grid that works for all. Flexibility Services proved to be a valuable resource on the networks to keep Britain’s energy flowing, as the country shifted to home working and demand patterns changed throughout the country. Although the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic remain, the project will keep up the pace of change and seek to increase engagement.

The workplan and consultation are launched alongside the Open Networks 2020 End of Year Report. The report details the progress the networks have made towards implementing a net zero energy system, as well as the improvements made on the customer journey. Last year, Open Networks delivered an international first with a nation-wide standard contract for flexibility services, making it even easier to sell services to the networks, and allowing customers to earn additional revenue from their smart technology.

The networks also released an interactive DSO Implementation Plan to track progress towards implementing DSO functionality and made a huge commitment to data transparency by publishing Embedded Capacity Registers of assets over 1MW. With a relentless focus on innovation, Open Networks is ready to take the transition to the smart grid to the next level in 2021.

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 in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
  • The 2021 Work Plan consultation will run from 18 January to 1 March 2021. More information, including the consultation document, can be found here. Completed responses should be sent to
    • All consultation responses are to be made public unless marked as confidential / anonymous.
  • Key priorities of the Open Networks Project in 2021 include:
    • Further developing the Common Evaluation Methodology to include work on option value and the evaluation of carbon
    • Addressing stakeholder concerns on Active Network Management (ANM) and its interaction with flexibility services
    • Updating the standard contract for flexibility services to align with ESO services
    • Conducting flexibility market simulations and trials for trading/sharing capacity
    • Updating the DSO Implementation Plan with DNO level activities and implementation timescales, and the Conflicts of Interest Register to track further risks to implementing DSO functionality
    • Considering the benefits and use cases for expanding the Embedded Capacity Register by including assets less than 1MW
    • Continuing outreach to community groups through Community Energy Forums with the aim of building an energy system that works for all
  • A Workplan consultation webinar will be held on Thursday 4 February, 10-11.30am. You can sign up for the webinar here.
  • The Open Networks Project 2020 End of Year review and the 2021 Project Initiation Document (pre-consultation) can be downloaded from our website.
  • The latest flexibility figures, which show that the distribution networks tendered out 2GW of flexibility services in 2020, can be found on our Flexibility in GB page.
  • 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.

About us

Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the energy networks. Our members include every major electricity network operator in the UK. The electricity networks are at the heart of the energy transition. They directly employ more than 26,000 people in the UK, including 1,500 apprentices. They are spending and investing £33bn in our electricity grids over the coming years, to ensure safe, reliable and secure energy supplies for the millions of homes and businesses reliant on power every day.

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