The Chair of the Open Networks Challenge Group, Maxine Frerk looks back at the work of the group and wider Open Networks programme over 2022
The Open Networks Challenge Group was established at the start of 2022 comprising 20 members who are a mix of flexibility service providers (FSPs) and stakeholders with a broader customer or policy interest – plus me as an independent chair. We met five times during the course of 2022 and I have been pleased at the spirit of openness and constructive debate in the meetings.
Over the year, in our discussions on the various Open Networks “products”, we have been able to make a range of detailed suggestions. However, our biggest contribution has probably been at a more strategic level, helping to shape the work plan for the year ahead.
To deliver on net zero requires a significant increase in the levels of flexibility on the system, and the work of Open Networks is vital to this, addressing the barriers that flexibility service providers face. We are therefore pleased that the Open Networks leadership is keen to really understand from the Challenge Group what these barriers are. Having to deal with six (or seven including the ESO) different sets of arrangements is a real barrier to participation in flexibility markets. A priority for the Challenge Group is therefore to see more standardised processes and for participation to be as easy and rewarding as possible. We have also encouraged the Open Networks team to measure progress against outcomes rather than simply delivery of reports or frameworks.
We recognise the tension that exists in the networks collaborating and following a common approach when much of the RIIO regime is based around encouraging a competitive spirit. And while standardisation is important, this must not mean limiting progress to the pace of the slowest. We want to see Open Networks pushing companies to do more and faster – and sharing learning on innovation projects.
Overall, the Challenge Group recognises the progress that has been made over the past year and there is strong support for the work of Open Networks. However, we are also very aware that future requirements for flexibility are set to increase, creating a need for Open Networks to continue to raise its ambition and deliver a step change in the alignment across the DNOs / ESO. We look forward to helping with that challenge as we move into 2023.
Notes to editor
The full Open Networks Challenge Group 2022 Report is available online.
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 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.
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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.