Networks set out plans to future-proof electricity system

Decarbonisation, digitisation and decentralisation have been placed at the heart of the gas and electricity Network Innovation Strategies unveiled by the Energy Networks Association (ENA).

The two strategies focus on innovative projects that the ENA’s members – which operate and maintain the ‘wires and pipes’ transmission and distribution network for gas and electricity in the UK and Ireland – say “can provide continuing benefits to customers”.

Seven themes have been identified under the gas strategy: the future of gas; safety and emergency; reliability and maintenance; repair; distribution mains replacement; environment and low carbon; and security.

A further five themes were highlighted in the electricity strategy: 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.

£1.7bn of savings

The strategies also lay out how the lessons learned from existing innovative projects can be shared across the industry.

Since 2004, more than 1,300 innovation projects have been delivered across both the gas and electricity networks.

The projects have helped network operators to understand how to integrate new energy technologies such as electric vehicles, renewable distributed generation and decarbonised sources of gas into the energy system.

Research by Pöyry has shown that the existing innovation projects used by electricity network operators alone could deliver up to £1.7 billion of benefits by 2031.

Working with innovators

Phil Swift, Chair of the ENA Electricity Networks and Futures Group, said: “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.”

> Download the ENA's electricity strategy