ENA's Open Networks Technical lead, Dr. Avi Aithal, provides the latest on the project’s Conflicts of Interest and Unintended Consequences register.
I joined Energy Networks Association (ENA) in April and have been impressed with the pace the project team work to – this year alone committing to delivering 30 products.
Now in its fifth year, the Open Networks project has helped the UK become a global leader of renewable energy. By implementing and standardising electricity and gas companies’ processes and practices where possible, the UK’s energy networks are powering the ultimate goal of achieving net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050.
One of our key priorities is supporting network companies in unlocking the full potential of their networks by transitioning to Distribution System Operators (DSO). This future network model entails creating a smarter and more flexible network, but one that continues to be safe, reliable and affordable for customers. With supply and demand patterns shifting, building a smarter, more accessible and flexible energy system will help the UK energy networks reach Net Zero at the lowest cost for consumers, whilst driving innovation and facilitating new products, jobs and industries.
As part of this work, an important, but often overlooked, area is understanding the potential risks associated with this transition. Introduced in 2019, the Open Networks project maintains a detailed Risk Register entitled the ‘Conflicts of Interest and Unintended Consequences’ register – and it’s aim is exactly what it describes: to further understand and investigate potential conflicts of interest and unintended consequences. The risks are identified through in-depth workshops with insight and experience from a team of experts, industry specialists and other stakeholders.
This means that we can:
- Provide full transparency of any activity taking place within Open Networks and by DNOs
- Identify and track mitigating actions needed to ensure a fair marketplace that delivers the best outcomes for consumers
- Ensure our (or third party) activities don’t lead to any unfavourable outcomes – in particular for vulnerable customers.
Regular updates by risk owners are critical to mitigating the risks effectively and transparently. Continued stakeholder input is also key for helping us shape the register - it’s vital we work together with the whole industry to understand any conflicts/unintended consequences, identify appropriate mitigation measures, monitor progress made on these measures and provide industry visibility of this. And, as with all of the Open Network project’s outputs, it is open for comments and input from all on ENA’s website.
In response to risk owner and stakeholder feedback we’ve recently made some changes to the register so that it’s more accessible and easier to use. These include:
- Introducing colour-coded heatmaps, enabling stakeholders and risk owners to prioritise the risks and monitor progress more easily
- Separating broader systemic risks from more actionable risks – so the latter now fit on one page
- Moving to six-monthly updates, rather than quarterly, with an interim heatmap-focused refresh
- Reviewing and communicating interactions with DSO implementation plans
- Flagging risks that could have impacts on vulnerable customers.
On the latter, vulnerable customer impacts continue to be a priority so we are also engaging more with ENA’s Customer & Social Issues Group to monitor and advise them on this.
Finally, we will be hosting a refresher workshop on Wednesday 4 August 10-11.30am. This is an opportunity for both risk owners and stakeholders to receive an update on how the register has evolved, its importance to the success of the Open Network project and the DSO implementation plans, and ways of engaging with the register. An update on the latest structural changes will be provided together with a practical run through from ENA's product team leads - including me. You can register for this on our events page.
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).