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Shaping the whole electricity system of the future

29 August 2018

Andy Wainwright, Business Lead - Whole Electricity System, National Grid looks at how we shape the electricity system of the future.


The way we generate and use electricity is changing, driven by the challenges of decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation.

New consumer technologies such as smart meters and electric vehicles, together with increased volumes of distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar and storage, are lifting the traditional distinctions between energy vectors. These changes create new opportunities to do more for consumers and the economy, especially through a ‘Whole System Approach’. As we move forward, consumers will reap the benefits of experience and innovation, unconstrained by out-of-date barriers while continuing to receive safe, secure energy at the right price.

As the system operator, National Grid manages the operation of both gas and electricity transmission systems. We know that to get the best outcomes for consumers we need to put careful consideration into energy sources, across transmission and distribution systems. Whilst we have ongoing initiatives that consider Whole System Approach impacts across energy sources (such as the evolution of heat) we are also focusing on the ‘Whole Electricity System’. For us, the Whole Electricity System includes everything that connects to sockets in consumers’ homes, through to large transmission connected generators.

As national Electricity System Operator, ESO for short, we have traditionally worked with distribution network operators (DNOs) and larger distribution parties to apply Whole System Approach thinking. For example, designing and operating an efficient transmission network has also led us to consider distribution network demands and impacts. With increasing volumes of DERs, these relationships need to be even deeper and how the ESO collaborates and works with different parties is changing.

Ofgem describes our role in ‘Facilitating Whole System Outcomes’ as a stand-alone ESO. This means we need to work with other parties to facilitate efficient development and operation of the Whole Electricity System. We’re doing this through initiatives such as Regional Development Programmes and the Network Options Assessment (NOA) Roadmap, developing new ways of working and taking advantage of emerging non-network solutions.

More broadly ENA’s Open Networks Project is providing an excellent vehicle to bring together network owners and operators to collaborate and develop the Whole Electricity System of the future. A good example is the Future Worlds consultation, open until 25 September 2018, which considers the changes needed to roles and responsibilities. This work needs to be shaped by a broad range of stakeholders and we’re keen to ensure that feedback is received from as many parties as possible. Find out more and have your say by responding to the consultation. Visit National Grid to learn about our role in facilitating Whole Electricity system outcomes. 

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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