Nigel Turvey, outgoing Chair of ENA’s Open Networks project, provides an insight into his time on the project.
Nigel Turvey, Chair of ENA Open Networks project (2016-2021)
With Britain’s energy landscape changing, and new smart technologies changing the way we interact with the energy system, it’s important that the networks transition to a smart, flexible system – otherwise known as the smart grid.
The Open Networks Project was created in 2016 to support this transition and is transforming the way our energy networks operate, but my involvement pre-dates this. Before the project started we’d set up a transmission/distribution interface group seeking to improve the working arrangements at the boundary between the two systems. However, we realised that looking forward the issues were wider and that we were not moving fast enough – so the Open Networks project was born. As I had chaired the Transmission/Distribution interface group, I continued with helping set up and chairing the Open Networks Project, and it’s a position I’ve enjoyed doing throughout the past four years.
The project brought together the nine electricity grid operators in the UK and Ireland, alongside GTC the independent Distribution Network Operator, to work together, and having the support of all the Network companies Chief Executives and ENA made this process much easier.
Looking back, some of the key achievements of the project for me have been:
- Future Worlds: Back in 2018 five scenarios were developed which explored different ways the markets could evolve. Whilst not designed to recommend which would be best, they helped to achieve focus on the foundations needed for any of these futures – facilitating flexibility, open data and information sharing and whole system.
- Delivering flexibility: The UK has world-leading flexibility markets – with over 2GW of services available for the market to deliver – and it’s important we continue to aid this progression. In addition to network flexibility, which has been trialled and tested via innovation projects, the development of third-party flexibility has been a key achievement. We now have common distribution products, a common contract and continue to work towards common processes for engagement to facilitate further growth in this area – this would have been much harder to deliver without the collaborative environment of the Open Networks project.
- Information and data: Whilst there is still a long way to go, the publication of capacity registers and constraint maps has started to improve transparency. The development of Distribution Future Energy Scenarios, coordination with the ESO Future Energy Scenarios and integration with Long Term Development Statements and shortly Network Development Plans is now being driven via Open Networks which will greatly aid consistency of both presentation and underlying economic scenarios.
It was also a proud moment to see the project referenced in the BEIS/Ofgem Smart System and Flexibility plan in 2018 as a key delivery body. The continuing support and guidance from Government and the regulator is invaluable in ensuring we continue to align with policy and deliver on the most important aspects first.
Ambition and scale
Since the project started the Government’s ambition on scale and speed of decarbonisation has increased and so has the need to speed up the development and roll-out of solutions. The impact of Covid-19 this past year has seen all our project activity heading on-line and has rapidly accelerated the use of remote working for millions of companies – and the resulting impact on electricity usage highlighted the importance of flexibility for the future and developing these markets now.
Now in its fifth year, the project continues to deliver change at a rapid pace, driving key areas for standardisation, open flexibility markets, providing better visibility of data, and working across whole systems to build an efficient energy system that leaves nobody behind. Other priorities for the project going forward include:
- Building on awareness outside the industry, highlighting opportunities for participation and saving money particularly for smaller businesses and the domestic sector.
- Increasing engagement with the end use equipment manufacturers and trade bodies.
- Making participation easier to ensure that we deliver both reliability and value for money in delivering a net carbon zero future.
It’s been both a challenge and a pleasure to chair the Open Networks project and I look forward to seeing it continue to progress and help deliver decarbonisation, particularly in the areas of open data and information to facilitate the development of services by others that will both encourage and make participation easier in delivering that future.
The new Chair will be announced soon and I wish them well in helping to steer the project onto continued success.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 40,000 people in Great Britain.