UK Power Networks (UKPN) has launched what is believed to be the UK's largest ever tender for flexibility services and storage, highlighting 115 sites where renewables could boost network capacity and reduce costs for customers.
UKPN, the distribution network operator for London, the south east and the east of England, is offering flexible services contracts worth £24m, to add a total capacity of 170 MW - enough to power 80,000 homes.
The 115 sites identified as suitable to add renewable sources make UKPN's tender the biggest yet in the UK, and around four times larger than the 28 sites announced last year.
It includes 55 high voltage sites, and the UK's first 60 low voltage sites.
UKPN has released a "heatmap" of all the sites, available now on the online platform Piclo.
By buying additional energy from distributed energy resources (DERs), instead of building new substations and cabling in the traditional way, UKPN can reduce costs for customers who need a new connection.
Flexibility has a key role to play as we move towards a decarbonised, decentralised, digitised network
Sotiris Georgiopoulos, UKPN
UKPN says that bids will have to meet "robust economic criteria" to ensure they will benefit customers, by offering lower costs in comparison to the traditional approach of building new assets.
Flexibility also creates new markets for wind and solar farms, and electricity storage operators, across London, the South East and East of England, to offer their energy to network operators.
Flexibility could save customers nationwide up to £40 billion by 2050, according to a study by Imperial College London.
Submissions are invited for the 2019/20 procurement programme by March 2020, with results to be announced in spring 2020.
In 2018, UK Power Networks became the first network operator in the country to commit to a "flexibility first" approach to cater for new connections.
In March 2019, it awarded flexibility contracts to four companies worth more than £450,000 for 43MW of power cumulative up to 2023.
Head of smart grid development Sotiris Georgiopoulos said: "Flexibility is the future, so we are leading an open, transparent and accountable new market for distributed energy resources to unlock a wealth of opportunities for our customers.
"This week's tender release for 2020, our biggest ever, shows we are pushing the boundaries to create these benefits for customers. That is why it extends the reach to 170MW total capacity, including the UK's first 60 low voltage zones.
"The UK is a world-leader in smart grid technology and flexibility has a key role to play as we move towards a decarbonised, decentralised, digitised network."
The new tender comes as the company launches its new Smart Grid website, which includes an online "flexibility hub" to make it easier than ever for customers to find out about the process.