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What is Net Zero?

01 May 2021

It’s the buzz word you can't escape - in every tweet, article, and blog - but what does ‘reaching Net Zero’ mean, and will it affect our daily lives?


In order to combat climate change and slow down the greenhouse effect, countries all over the world are targeting 2050 to reach Net Zero carbon emissions – sometimes referred to as becoming carbon neutral. Simply put, Net Zero emissions means striking a balance between the amount of greenhouse gasses put into the atmosphere by humans, and the amount removed through things like new Carbon Capture technologies, and planting trees.

Every part of society must be looked at under a magnifying glass to find ways of decarbonising. There are many things that need to be considered, such as making sure that the power going into electric cars is generated in a low carbon way.

In order to make sure climate change is at the centre of the debate, each year the United Nations holds the Conference of the Parties (COP), an International diplomatic conference to discuss climate change, propose solutions, and agree commitments. The most recent international framework, the Paris Agreement, was agreed at COP21 in 2015. It commits nations that signed the agreement to long term temperature limits to substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

This year the United Kingdom is host and President of COP26, which is planned to be held in Glasgow in November. Our conference this year is the most important since the adoption of the Paris Agreement 6 years ago. Countries signed up to the agreement must submit enhanced contributions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions every 5 years in order to ‘ratchet up’ ambition on climate change, and our Presidency is the first-time countries will use the so called ‘Ratchet mechanism’ to review progress and agree the next phase.

The UK's energy networks have been playing their own part, leading a massive transformation over the last couple of years in order to lay the groundwork for us to meet Net Zero carbon emissions, a target put into law in the UK in 2019. Through our Open Networks Project and Gas Goes Green programme, we're redesigning the way our grids work to enable us to connect even more renewable energy projects more quickly than ever, and heat our homes with hydrogen with minimal disruption to customers.

What are the networks doing?

  1. Electric vehicles are a huge part of the drive to decarbonise, and the electricity network operators (DNOs) have a key role to play in delivering the infrastructure and innovation for a mass roll-out of electric vehicles. Ground-breaking pilot projects are underway for vehicle-to-grid technology, allowing for EV owners to sell their energy back to the networks and creating more capacity for further electrification.
  2. The UK is at the top of the global race for hydrogen, pioneering projects to help us better understand how to transport and deploy hydrogen into homes safely. Recently, Britain's gas networks announced plans for the first Hydrogen Town by 2030, making our ambition on hydrogen a reality. 85% of British homes are connected to the gas grid, and using hydrogen will allow customers to substantially decarbonise at the same time as heating their homes, getting their hot water, and cooking in exactly the same way as we can now.
  3. Offshore wind will become one of our most important resources in reaching Net Zero, with the Prime Minister targeting enough capacity produced by offshore wind to power every home in the UK by 2030. The energy networks are already exploring how to make connections to the mainland quicker and cheaper, and how to use excess wind to produce hydrogen.
  4. All electricity networks in the UK and Ireland, National Grid ESO, National Grid Electricity Transmission, and independent network operator GTC are apart of our industry leading Open Networks Project. The project is leading the transformation and decarbonisation of our electricity networks to become a smart grid, where energy flows in multiple directions and customers can sell clean energy back to the grid. We're doing this by opening local markets for flexibility services, standardising key processes across the country to make it as easy as possible to get low carbon electricity onto the networks. We're also looking at the roles and responsibilities of DNOs and helping to transition to Distribution System Operation, giving your local networks the ability to procure low carbon energy.
  5. Energy network operators are reducing their business carbon footprints by taking proper care of the environment they work in. The UK's energy networks are one of the biggest employers of tree surgeons in the country, taking proper care of trees around our pylons and infrastructure will help them to take more carbon our of our atmosphere. The networks are also under-grounding cables in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and undertaking rewilding afforestation projects take better care of our natural home, helping take more carbon out of our atmosphere.
  6. Recently, in response to the Prime Ministers 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, the energy networks launched the #NetworksTenPointPlan to show how networks are building on each of the points, and how we plan to scale up our ambition. The Prime Ministers 10 Point Plan was the most significant policy intervention for the energy industry in nearly ten years, and the UK’s energy networks will be the foundation on which it is delivered.

Notes to editor

  • Find out more about our Gas Goes Green project, and the transition to hydrogen for the 85% of homes connected to Britain's gas grid, on our Gas Goes Green digital hub.

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.

Press contacts

You can contact ENA's press office by emailing For urgent or out-of-hours enquiries from journalists, please call 0204 599 7691.