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New energy network innovation strategies set the pathway to Net Zero

30 March 2020


Energy Networks Association publishes updated innovation strategies for gas and electricity networks and new 'whole systems' Energy Networks Innovation Strategy, as number of GB grid innovation projects tops 1,100.

The role of that gas and electricity grid innovation will play in delivering the UK’s Net Zero carbon emissions target is being unveiled today, as Energy Networks Association’s (ENA) publishes its latest network innovation strategies.

Updated innovation strategies for gas and electricity networks have been joined by a new ‘whole systems’ Energy Networks Strategy, which will help find new ways for Britain’s gas and electricity grid infrastructure to work together in a more integrated way, as the country looks towards an expansion of zero carbon technologies across a range of different sectors.

The documents set out the principles that energy network companies will adhere to as they commission a new generation of innovation projects up and down the country, helping Britain slash its carbon emissions between now and 2050, reduce costs and deliver better services to consumers.

New figures released in the strategies show that between 2008 and 2019 gas and electricity network companies delivered over 1,100 different projects in communities and regions across Great Britain. These projects have underpinned the country’s renewables revolution, whilst driving up efficiency of Britain’s energy network infrastructure to keep down costs for the public.

Examples of current projects include:

  • The HyDeploy Project at Keele University, a world leading hydrogen project which provides the first ever live demonstration of hydrogen for heating in homes, at a time when policymakers continue to grapple with the issue of reducing household carbon emissions.
  • The Social Constraint Managed Zone, a partnership between network companies and fuel poverty charity National Energy Action that helps communities sell smart energy ‘flexibility services’ to the grid, using technologies such as solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles to reduce the need for network companies to build new infrastructure.
  • Zero 2050 South Wales, which brings together energy network companies, local and international businesses and communities in South Wales to model and plan how the region will play its part in helping the UK meet its Net Zero target.

The three innovation strategies are based on five key principles to ensure projects deliver a lasting, wider impact to us all:

  1. Delivering customer benefits - ranging from efficiency savings and a better customer experience, to the accelerated decarbonisation of our energy system.
  2. Providing opportunities for collaboration – projects should deliver shared learning, and increase collaboration between network companies and the wider energy sector
  3. Delivering a carbon impact – projects should have a positive impact on achieving the UK’s Net Zero emissions target whenever possible.
  4. Using data and inputs - the lessons of network innovation activity should be made available to all in a consistent and accessible format.
  5. Delivering scale and roll-out – innovation activity should deliver transformational change, identifying methods to scale up and roll out new practices, processes and technologies.

These principles have been developed following extensive consultation with the wider energy industry, led by engagement experts Regen.

Commenting, David Smith, Chief Executive of ENA, says:

“From connecting ever greater levels of renewable energy to finding the new solutions we need for decarbonising heat and transport; our energy network infrastructure is already at the centre of delivering a world leading Net Zero economy.

“That role is set to grow, as that infrastructure takes on new responsibilities to deliver decarbonisation. We need to ensure our network infrastructure is future-ready, that our approach is transparent and accountable and that it is focussed as much on local needs as it is on national ones. The five principles set out in these strategies set out just how network innovation will do that.

“These strategies provide a clear pathway for Britain’s’ energy innovators to be part of that. They have been drafted with that in mind, following extensive consultation with a range of different groups across Britain’s energy sector. I would like thank those stakeholders for their input and look forward to seeing how the strategies lead to a whole host of exciting new network innovation projects as we move forward.”

Merlin Hyman, Chief Executive of Regen, adds:

“Working with the ENA and the energy networks over the past six months to develop their new innovation strategies, has been an great opportunity to help shape our critical energy infrastructure for a zero carbon future. By setting out clear principles and themes, our aim is that the strategies will help organisations with new technologies and great ideas work with the networks on exciting projects that will transform our energy system.”

Press contacts for journalists

ENA Press Office


Notes to editor

  • Energy Networks Association represents the companies that are responsible for operating the ‘wires and pipes’ of Britain’s gas and electricity network infrastructure, serving over 30 million customers across the country
  • The strategies can be found online at the following locations:
    • Electricity Network Innovation Strategy here.
    • Gas Network Innovation Strategy here
    • Energy Networks Innovation Strategy here
  • In total, gas and electricity network companies delivered 1160 network innovation projects between 2008 and 2019. Of these, 536 were gas network innovation projects and 624 were electricity network innovation projects. Over 2000 projects have been run since 2004.
  • You can read more from Regen on how they managed the consultation process for the strategies here
  • A short animation on energy network innovation can be found online here
  • Fast facts about the role energy network companies are playing in helping the UK reach its carbon emissions targets:
    • A third of Britain’s electricity is now generated from renewable sources that have been connected to energy networks, helping reduce UK carbon emissions to their lowest level since 1888 (BEIS, CCC)here
    • Britain’s local electricity grids have connected the equivalent of ten Hinkley Point C power plants in the last ten years – over 30GW in total (BEIS)
    • Nearly 100 green gas production plants are now connected across the country (ABDA) - green gas could be used to heat up to 15m homes by 2050 (Cadent)
    • The UK economy will need to spend between 1-2% of its total wealth each year to reach Net Zero by 2050 (CCC)
    • Great Britain could save up to £40bn by 2050 by creating a more innovative, flexible energy system (Imperial College)
    • Nearly £4,000 has been invested for every household in GB grid infrastructure in the country since privatisation in 1990 - £100bn in total (Ofgem)
    • Another £1,600 is being invested for every household right now, under the current price control (2013-2023) - £45bn in total (Ofgem)
    • Electricity network costs have fallen by almost a fifth since privatisation whilst £100bn has been invested (Ofgem)

About Energy Networks Association

Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing 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 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 40,000 people in Great Britain.

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