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The road to Net Zero is paved with network innovation

19 May 2021

David Smith, Chief Executive of Energy Networks Association comments on recent milestones for the Association, its members and industry in the lead up to COP26. 


As the voice of the networks, it was encouraging for Energy Networks Association (ENA) to see the news last week that the UK’s electricity networks are the smartest and most flexible in Europe. The GEODE commissioned report, written by the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE), noted that the UK’s electricity networks lead all their competitors in Europe for supporting and delivering flexibility services, with a number of ENA led projects – including Open Networks and the Digital Systems Map – being highlighted throughout. 

Both of these projects, alongside other ENA led initiatives such as Gas Goes Green and our broader innovation work, are progressing with an ultimate goal in mind – the UK’s decentralised, digitalised, Net Zero emissions future. 

David Smith, CEO

The UK's energy networks will be crucial in supporting the UK's Net Zero target - which is to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and 2045 in Scotland - from developing flexible connections to renewable energy generation – with the latter’s importance recognised once more by government last week.  

With less than six months to go until the COP26 climate change summit this November, UK ministers visited sites across the country to showcase UK climate action and leadership towards a green economy. They visited a range of renewable energy related projects, with COP26 President Alok Sharma speaking at Scottish Power’s Whitelee Windfarm – the largest onshore wind farm in the UK.  

The UK is the largest producer of offshore wind energy in the world, less than 2% of UK electricity comes from coal (compared to 40% in 2012) and the latest figures show renewables’ share of total generation in the UK is at a record high* - something ENA, our members and industry are immensely proud of. 

A clean energy transition to a net zero economy is a key part of the UK’s work as COP26 Presidency and with the eyes of the world on the UK at COP26 now is the time to translate Net Zero ambition into tangible climate action. We know for certain that strategic investment can power an economic recovery from Covid-19. 

It’s been a challenging 14 months, but the urgency of hitting net-zero carbon emissions has remained, and 2021 has already been a year of action and delivery ahead of COP26. From our Green Recovery collaboration with Ofgem unlocking £300m of investment, to Gas Goes Green’s “Tomorrow’s Heat, Today’s Opportunity” programme launch to a 41% increase in the volume of flexibility being tendered so far this year, with the anticipated delivery of around 3GW of flexibility being tendered by end of 2021. 

For all this to work at scale, we will need an unprecedented level of collaboration across different sectors and we look forward to continue collaborating with the whole industry, from BEIS and Ofgem to community groups all over the country, to deliver the vital changes to deliver net zero emissions. 

Notes to editor

  • *Over 40% in 2020, with over 30GW generation now connected to the local networks. Digest of UK Energy Statistics, July 2020. 
  • Innovation will pave the way for a Net Zero future supported by our gas and electricity networks, for more information visit ENA’s Creating tomorrow’s networks. 
  • Optimal regulation for European DSOs to 2025 and beyond, Centre on Regulation in Europe (April 2021) 
  • Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE) promotes robust and consistent regulation in Europe’s network and digital industries. CERRE’s members are regulatory authorities and operators in those industries as well as universities.  
  • GEODE: Founded in 1991 GEODE is made up of European independent distribution companies of gas and electricity. The association represents more than 1200 companies in 15 countries, both private & public owned. We serve a population of 100 million people. 

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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