The Energy Networks Association has published a roadmap outlining the key steps in the introduction of the distribution system operator (DSO) model for local power networks.
The document was produced as part of the association's open networks project - an industry initiative to establish the future roles and responsibilities of networks, and foster the creation of a smart grid.
Under the DSO model distribution networks will undertake balancing of their local energy system just as the transmission system operator (TSO), National Grid, already does for the energy system as a whole. A key focus for the open networks project is how DSOs will interact with the TSO.
According to the roadmap, the next couple of years will see the development of prototypes for the interface between DSOs and the TSO as well as procedures for the exchange of data between the parties. Trials will be undertaken into possible solutions for billing and settlement.
Essential policy and regulatory changes will also be identified, regional planning will commence and testing will begin on methods for forecasting. Other companies will follow the lead of UK Power Networks in offering flexible connections to customers.
Over the remainder of the current period of RIIO price controls, a new commercial framework will be formulated, market arrangements will be developed for flexibility services and data from SMETS2 smart meters will be used to create new tariffs and pricing structures.
Active network management systems will be rolled out, regional planning will be standardised and the previously identified policy and regulatory changes will be implemented.
The ENA expects the work to come to fruition in the second RIIO period, during which local networks will begin functioning as DSOs - producing regional energy forecasts, procuring a full-suite of balancing services and coordinating their actions with the TSO.
Commenting on the roadmap, ENA head of innovation and development Randolph Brazier told Network that the open networks project is now moving "quite quickly".
"We've got some tight deadlines to meet by the end of the year," said Brazier. "All of the networks have committed full-time equivalents to the project - time, effort and money basically - so we're very happy with everyone's input. A lot of it is happening now and you'll see that in our roadmap."