The energy networks have spent decades mobilising tens of billions of private capital for the solutions our future energy market needs
If recent announcements from the Government and organisations like the Committee on Climate Change are anything to go by, the energy networks have a central role in fulfilling our net zero commitments. Already foundational to the decarbonation we have witnessed in recent years – connecting gigawatts of renewables on and offshore whilst becoming more flexible and adaptable – these businesses are now at the forefront of the innovation we need ahead of 2050. More will be needed and not just from the energy networks and that’s why we’re calling on the Government to match the EU’s target for 3% of GDP to be invested in research and development of the technologies which will make us fit for the future.
Flexible and smart
Central to delivering the volumes of renewables we need to power our future economy is creating a smart, digitalised and flexible system. Flexibility will need to go far beyond balancing the whole system; it needs to be localised. The UK is a world-leader in local flexibility with 2GW tendered in local flexibility markets, delivering the right solutions in the right places at the time needed and least cost to the consumer.
Investing nationally and locally
Energy network companies have historically been able to raise billions of pounds of private capital at best value for the public – over £100bn since 1990 - spreading the cost of doing so across many years. Network companies also have their own funding schemes; ScottishPower Energy Networks have run the Green Economy Fund since 2018, awarding millions of pounds to the innovators and organisations with the solutions needed to accelerate towards a green economy.
Making up a critical component in shifting away from natural gas, the UK’s gas networks are paving the way in how to use and transport hydrogen in a safe, efficient, and cost-effective way. There are five major trials already well underway, trials which are exploring how to make, distribute and use hydrogen at scale, including confirming how much hydrogen our existing system and appliances can handle with no major changes and how to convert an entire city to run on hydrogen.
Working with the regulator
Every year ENA runs a Network Innovation Competition and holds an Energy Networks Innovation Conference. Bringing forward the solutions of the future is right at the heart of what we and our members do. The winners of this annual competition are then submitted to Ofgem who decide if they qualify for investment. One of the recent winners was Electricity North West’s QUEST scheme which manages the increased peaks and troughs we’re going to see in demand as we shift towards renewables and electrify much of our heating and transport. Using intelligent systems, the scheme automatically monitors the voltage of the network without compromising the service.
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.