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Energy flexibility programme starts new phase of work that could save billions during Net Zero transition

05 January 2023

The 5th anniversary of the Open Networks programme marks a reorientation towards practical outcomes and innovations   


Since 2017 the UK has become an international leader in the development of local energy flexibility markets, with 3.7GW of flexibility tendered out in 2022. Supporting this growth, ENA’s Open Networks programme has brought together the UK’s energy network operators to work with government, industry and groups representing consumers, in identifying how best to create a smarter, more flexible grid.  

The programme is focused on bringing more participants into the flexibility market, creating a uniform customer experience and developing common standards across different types of energy grid. It aims to create ‘interoperability’ between these energy grids, which would mean a seamless experience for businesses and consumers accessing flexibility services. Notably, this year saw the release of the Open Networks Baselining tool, which alongside the Whole System Cost Benefit Analysis tool and a Whole Electricity System Coordination register – combines to give energy decision-makers a more accurate view of their local flexibility markets and opportunities for effective collaboration.  

Responding to our stakeholders’ feedback, the programme’s End of Year Review published today notes that this year the Open Networks programme will be prioritising the rapid delivery of projects with immediate practical benefits. This includes work to standardise products, processes and contracts and a new set of rules for resolving potential service conflicts between providers. This focus on practical delivery and solving operational challenges, will be at the core of the programme in the years ahead.  

Energy flexibility is a vital part of the UK’s commitment to transitioning to a Net Zero economy whilst ensuring best value is achieved for consumers and the public purse. The Joint BEIS and Ofgem Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan sets out how flexibility could save consumers £10bn per year in energy costs by 2050 and reduce the total cost of the Net Zero transition by up to £70bn. 

Dr. Avinash Aithal, Head of Open Networks, Energy Networks Association (ENA), said:

"Energy flexibility markets are a simple, practical and low-cost way to improve energy resilience and bring down costs to consumers as we transition to Net Zero, which is why ours are being emulated worldwide. For the last five years we’ve worked hard to lay the groundwork for a truly integrated flexibility market.  

“Listening to our members, we recognise its time to step up the creation of technological and procedural innovations that will be significant steps towards creating a consistent and user-friendly energy flexibility system, ready for everyone to use. We need to realise our ambitions and help ensure everyone can easily access a world class energy flexibility service. There are potentially massive savings to be made on the transition to Net Zero if we get it right.”  

Notes to editor

Background information  

  • For a full update on the work of ENA’s Open Networks programme, please read the End of Year Review 2022
  • Since its inception in 2017, ENA’s Open Networks programme has played a pivotal role in supporting the move towards Net Zero by enabling the creation of local flexibility markets and implementing the processes required to support them. A ‘flexible grid’ reflects the fact power generation can now occur in thousands of different places, from businesses and farms to people’s homes via solar panels or electric vehicles.
  • The programme’s work has helped the UK to establish world-leading local flexibility markets through more standardisation across Distribution Network Operations (DNOs) and with National Grid ESO, simplification and transparency in decision-making. 3.7GW of flexibility was tendered out in 2021/22 – a record amount, with 2GW of this contracted by July 2022, maintaining the UK as an international leader in local flexibility markets. 
  • As part of the Flexibility Commitment, Britain’s six DNOs committed to six key steps as flexibility services are rolled out more widely and we transition to a more efficient, smarter and low-carbon energy system fit for Britain’s future. These are:
  • Champion a level playing field
  • Ensure visibility and accessibility
  • Conduct procurement in an open and transparent manner
  • Provide clarity on the dispatch of services
  • Provide regular, consistent and transparent reporting
  • Work together towards whole energy system outcomes


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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