The UK’s energy network firms have teamed up to develop joint proposals to create “exciting opportunities” for smart technologies such as hydrogen and battery storage.

The plans, revealed yesterday (31 August), outline how the network operators will develop two separate gas and electricity innovation strategies. Under the banner of the Energy Networks Association, the strategies will aim to ensure that commercial gains can be derived from innovation projects that help to create smarter grids and reduce carbon emissions.

Energy Networks Association chief executive David Smith said: “Network companies are already using innovation projects to drive forward network performance, deliver better value for money and find new ways to harness the potential of energy technologies. These strategies will ensure that both the networks and the customers get the most out of those projects.

“But that is only one side of the network innovation coin. The other side is about how we harness the potential of energy technologies to enable new markets and provide new opportunities for consumers to have greater control of their energy bills and reduce their costs.”

Clean network

Ofgem figures show that innovation by energy networks has already enabled close to £1bn of cost savings that will be delivered between now and 2023. Indeed, a number of innovative, low-carbon developments have been initiated by energy network firms in recent months.

Northern Powergrid earlier this year signed a memorandum of understanding with Nissan to look at how electric vehicles (EVs) can support energy networks. Northern Powergrid has also formed a partnership with CESI at Newcastle University that will assess the network impact of vehicle-to-grid (V2G) charging as successively increasing numbers of electric vehicles are rolled out.

In July, UK Power Networks, Britain’s largest electricity distributor, unveiled its intention to become a Distribution System Operator (DSO) as part of its vision to help deliver a smart, flexible energy system. The move will help UK Power Networks’ customers with the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs), demand response contracts and smart grid technologies such as energy storage.

An £18.4m grid-scale battery system in Bedfordshire operated by UK Power Networks proved the technical and commercial viability of energy storage in Britain following an extensive two-year trial, the operator recently claimed. According to the network provider, the system can potentially transform the energy grid and play a major role in the transition towards a low-carbon economy.