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Joint record hottest year reiterates need to invest in Net Zero innovation

15 January 2021

Dan Clarke, ENA’s new Head of Innovation takes a look at what lies ahead when it comes to innovation in the year of COP 26.


As we enter the New Year, and I begin a new role as ENA's Head of Innovation, we face the very familiar issue of the race to address climate change.

The climate crisis has come to the forefront once more with reports that, despite a drop in contributing factors through worldwide lockdowns and a decrease in aviation and fossil burning due to the pandemic, 2020 was officially the joint hottest year on record. This is one record no-one wants to see and reiterates the urgency to address emissions reductions and the desperate situation we face if we don’t take considerable action.

The news comes as preparations for the COP 26 summit ramp up, alongside the welcome announcement of Alok Sharma’s appointment as COP 26 President, and follows recent significant government launches including the Prime Minister's Ten Point Plan – which we responded to with #NetworksTenPointPlan in December – the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget and the Energy White Paper.

The publication of these plans means we now have clear policy pathways for UK decarbonisation, and with the news this week that 2020 was the greenest year for GB’s electricity network, Britain is now better positioned than ever before to tackle the important and ambitious target of achieving Net Zero by 2050. What is certain in an uncertain time is that 2021 will be another year of action and delivery for ENA; the Energy Networks will continue to provide the backbone of decarbonisation and the shift to net zero emissions.

Innovation remains a core focus, and a key part of my new role is ensuring that we maintain and prioritise investment in innovative projects and technologies that will help address climate change aiding in the journey towards Net Zero.

As the Government proceeds with incentivising the decarbonisation of transport, we have been leading work in this area to model different scenarios and their effect on the Energy Networks. This has involved being active participants in the Government-appointed Electric Vehicles Energy Taskforce, which launched its final report in early 2020. In 2021, we will carry on developing processes, tools and procedures in response to RIIO-2 framework to ensure a relevant, coordinated and beneficial innovation portfolio for the Networks and their customers.

In addition to this, we are continuing to collaborate at all stages of the innovation journey and are in the final phase of developing the newly named Energy Networks Innovation Process Document (previously Energy Networks Innovation Coordination and Assessment Protocol). It demonstrates end-to-end steps for reporting, collaboration and dissemination of Ofgem-funded innovation projects and will be published this spring in alignment with RIIO-2. We also published our Energy Network Innovation Strategy last spring, and this strategy is updated every two years.

More broadly, ENA’s Open Networks Project is helping the transition to a smart, flexible system that allows Networks to make the most of local resources rather than building expensive new infrastructure. The 2021 Work Plan consultation launches next week, which gives stakeholders from industry and beyond the opportunity to shape the direction and priorities of the project in 2021.

We’re also creating the world’s first zero-carbon gas grid through our Gas Goes Green programme. This will speed up the switch from natural gas to hydrogen for the 85% of UK households connected to the gas grid, and we will be launching Britain’s Hydrogen Network Plan later this month.

Our Networks have already helped turn the UK into a superpower of renewable energy, but we need to go further and faster to continue to play our part in the UK’s green recovery – and this push must be supported by regulation that allows us to tackle the climate emergency, while doing so at least cost to customers.


Notes to editor

Read more about how our Energy Networks are at the heart of delivering Net Zero emissions.

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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