Consultation launched on ‘Future Worlds’ for smart grid

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) is seeking views on five 'Future Worlds' which represent a major change from the way electricity networks operate today.

Consultation launched on ‘Future Worlds’ for smart grid

As part of its Open Networks Project the ENA has launched a major new consultation on electricity networks’ plans to deliver a smarter, more flexible and more decentralised energy system, a change which could save consumers as much as £40 billion by 2050.

Ofgem, BEIS, and all 10 of UK and Ireland’s electricity network operators are part of the industry-wide project which will also inform similar developments in the single electricity market in Ireland.

The consultation published today (1 August) seeks industry views on five models – the ‘Future Worlds’ – for delivering this change, presenting a wide range of options for the structure of electricity networks that go beyond those proposals made by the recent Cost of Energy Review. In all five worlds, traditional forms of infrastructure such as pylons and substations will have to work alongside smart energy flexibility services to manage the electricity grid, that use new consumer technologies such as electric vehicles, smart meters, battery storage and solar panels. Research conducted by Imperial College London and The Carbon Trust shows that these services could deliver up to £40bn of benefits across the energy system by 2050.

David Smith, CEO of Energy Networks Association, said: “The Open Networks Project is transforming the way our electricity networks work, unlocking a whole new range of benefits for households and businesses across the country. 

“These Future Worlds represent a major change from the way our networks operate today, as they pioneer new ways to decarbonise our energy system to deliver new opportunities and reduced costs for households and businesses across the country. 

“This consultation is key, not only to ensuring that we have considered the best options but also to ensure all stakeholders have their say in shaping the future of the electricity networks.

“The consultation also focuses on 23 key stakeholders in each of the future worlds, describing their role, how their roles and responsibilities will evolve to meet the challenges of decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation, and how the five different Future Worlds will affect each of them.”

The Future Worlds, developed through a series of stakeholder workshops, range from a decentralised energy system where local electricity grids enable regional energy markets to balance supply and demand at a local level, to a more centralised system where co-ordinating local energy resources is the responsibility of the national system operator. They also include a world where new independent national or regional organisations, labelled Flexibility Co-ordinators, co-ordinate flexibility services for the electricity networks.

Following feedback from the consultation, each of the models will be submitted to an impact assessment that will inform the project’s work.

Randolph Brazier, ENA head of innovation and development, added: “As we move towards our smart decentralised systems of the future, many stakeholders will see significant change and evolution of their roles. For some, these changes will be largely consistent across these five future worlds, but for others there is considerable difference. Stakeholder feedback is therefore key to this consultation, and we invite stakeholders to give us feedback on how we’ve envisaged their roles in these future worlds, and which world they believe works best for them and consumers.”

  • The five Future Worlds are:
    • World A: Distribution System Operator (DSO) coordinates – a world where the DSO acts as the neutral market facilitator for all DER and provides services on a locational basis to National Grid in its role as the Electricity System Operator (ESO)
    • World B: Co-ordinated DSO – ESO procurement and dispatch – a world where DSO and ESO work together to efficiently manage networks through co-ordinated procurement and dispatch of flexibility resource
    • World C: Price-driven Flexibility – a world where changes developed through Ofgem’s reform of electricity network access and forward-looking charges’ have improved access arrangements and forward looking signals for customers
    • World D: ESO Coordinate(s) – a world where the ESO is the counterparty for Distributed Energy Resource (DER) with DSO’s informing the ESO of their requirements
    • World E: Flexibility Coordinator(s) – a world where a new national (or potentially regional) third party acts as the neutral market facilitator for DER providing efficient services to the ESO and/or DSO as required.

The consultation documents can be found online at the ENA website here.


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