Since 2004, over 1,300 innovation projects have been delivered across both gas and electricity networks, allowing network operators to better understand how to integrate new energy technologies such as electric vehicles, renewable distributed generation and decarbonised sources of gas into our energy system. The projects reflect the purpose of Britain’s energy network companies in building an efficient, smarter, cleaner energy system fit for Britain’s homes and businesses. Independent research carried out by Pöyry has shown that existing innovation projects used by electricity network operators alone could deliver up to £1.7bn of benefits by 2031.
Driven by decarbonisation, digitisation and decentralisation, these projects are already helping energy network operators identify new ways of better serving their customers by helping them develop quicker, more efficient and cheaper ways to deliver a cleaner energy system. The publication of the electricity and gas Network Innovation Strategies will set out new areas of focus where network companies can provide continuing benefits to customers from innovation projects, as well as how they will share the lessons learnt from those projects with other organisations to roll out the benefits more widely and better shape future innovation.
This transparency is key to ensuring that network companies respond to the needs of their customers and continue to focus on priority areas for innovation, which can deliver most benefit to the wider energy system in the most effective way possible. Each strategy provides a detailed roadmap, detailing priority areas and how future innovation in both gas and electricity networks will evolve to meet the predicted challenges.
The Gas Network Innovation Strategy sets out the role that the existing gas infrastructure can play in meeting demand for power, heat and transport in a low carbon economy. It sets out an approach based on seven themes: the future of gas; safety and emergency; reliability and maintenance; repair; distribution mains replacement; environment and low carbon; and security.
The electricity networks are undertaking a huge shift towards a smart grid, and network innovation will be critical to effectively delivering benefits in a collaborative and cost-effective way. The Electricity Network Innovation Strategy focuses on how current and future innovation projects can address the challenges and opportunities that will arise as we transition towards a smart, flexible energy system. This strategy is delivering this shift via five themes: network improvements and system operability; transition to a low carbon future; new technologies and commercial evolution; customer and stakeholder focus; and safety, health and environment.
ENA Chief Executive, David Smith states:
“Decarbonisation, digitisation and decentralisation are driving revolution in the energy sector, and our energy networks are on the frontline of delivering the kind of world-leading innovation that is making that happen. The publication of the first joint Network Innovation Strategies is a major milestone and we look forward to working with our innovation partners to ensure our network infrastructure, our wider energy system and our customers benefit from new technology, business models and unique opportunities.”
Huw Sullivan, Chair of the ENA Gas Innovation & Governance Group commented:
“Since funding for network innovation was first introduced, Great Britain’s energy networks have developed a world leading reputation for innovation and these strategies build on the impressive track record of energy networks in delivering innovation projects. Projects have the potential to develop a truly world-leading Whole Systems Approach that brings the way our gas and electricity networks work more closely together. This will be crucial as we find new ways to meet the UK’s carbon budgets, because if our power, heat, transport and waste sectors are all interdependent, then so must be the solutions to their decarbonisation.”
Phil Swift, Chair of the ENA Electricity Networks and Futures Group added that:
“Network companies cannot deliver innovation alone. We want network infrastructure to act as a platform for new energy technologies and services that will put Great Britain at the forefront of the global low carbon transformation. Whether they are end-users, technology developers or service providers, network companies want to work with these innovators who have some of the best and the brightest ideas for how we can harness the potential of new energy technologies and opportunities. This need for wider engagement in network innovation extends to communities and businesses across the country, ensuring that the economic as well as practical benefits are spread far and wide.”