Smart energy, data and digitalisation are playing an important role in enabling gas networks to support the roll out of the green technologies that we need to accelerate progress towards our Net Zero emissions goal.
That role is often less well known than in other areas of the energy sector.
Crucially these projects are also finding new ways to integrate the operations of gas and electricity network infrastructure to support those technologies, which increasingly work across the traditional boundaries of our energy system.
It’s vital to bring together electricity and gas grid operators, along with stakeholders such as local authorities, gas and electricity producers and users, so that the UK’s energy networks can work more efficiently and ensure that customers can get the energy they need, whenever they need it.
Take, for example, wind and solar farms connected to a local electricity grid. The amount of electricity that those sites generate varies from hour to hour, day to day and season to season, in accordance with the weather. But for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, we need to ensure that not only the quantity of electricity fed into the grid matches the demand for it from our homes and businesses, but that that supply remains stable too.
Flexible power plants, which use natural gas today but, in the future, could use hydrogen or biomethane instead, play an important role in producing electricity for those times when the wind doesn’t blow, or the sun doesn’t shine, ramping production up and down as and when needed.
And that’s where gas network innovation is already coming in; Britain’s gas grid companies are at the cutting edge of gathering, analysing and using data to more accurately forecast when flexible power plants will be used, which enables the gas grid that supplies them and the electricity grid that they deliver power to, to be run more efficiently. It allows network companies to plan more accurately for the building of new network infrastructure which in turn allows more renewable energy projects to be connected to the grid, at lower cost - all whilst increasing its capacity.
Gas networks are also finding new ways for green gas producers, like biomethane plants, to supply more renewable energy, more consistently into the gas grid throughout the year, to help displace natural gas. They are using data to understand how a combination of different gases in the gas grid, whether it be biomethane or hydrogen, combined with natural gas, will behave in real-time, allowing network operators to increase the amount of them being used in our homes, businesses and communities.
And they’re pioneering new hybrid heating systems, which allow homes to switch between gas and electricity for their heating and hot water, allowing them to use renewable electricity to keep their homes warm when it’s been generated - whilst still having the safety of gas for those times when it’s not.
We’ll be profiling this work over the coming weeks in our #H2Explainer blog series, but if you want to read more today, we’ve set out that work in a new document, ‘Introducing Britain’s Smart Gas Grid’, which you can find to the right of this page.
Notes to editors
Gas Goes Green #H2Explainers are a series of blogs setting all the key information you need to know about how Britain’s gas networks are working to deliver hydrogen to our homes, as part of our 'Tomorrow's Heat, Today's Opportunity' campaign. Check out the ENA Newsroom to find other articles and updates from both gas and electricity network companies.
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).
Energy supplier or network operator? Energy network operators are entirely separate to your energy supplier, which is the company that bills you for using electricity and gas. Energy suppliers and generators are represented by Energy UK.