Energy Networks Association reveals net-zero innovation strategy


Energy Networks Association reveals net-zero innovation strategy

The Energy Networks Association has unveiled a plan to reach net zero by 2050 and believes that this can only be delivered by adopting a ‘whole-systems’ approach to this transition. The Energy Networks Innovation Strategy includes details surrounding the movement towards net-zero and highlights this as a key focus for existing and new innovations.

The ENA strongly supports new policies and energy businesses that have actively been investing in the green industry, referring to over 1,000 grid innovation projects currently in development last month. One of these projects includes the first grid-injected hydrogen projects in the UK, virtual power plants in Yorkshire and West Sussex and the Social Constraint Managed Zone which involves a partnership between businesses and the charity National Energy Action to enable low-income households to sell flexibility services back to the grid.

In the report, the ENA emphasises the need for wider and faster collaboration to enable energy and gas networks to reach the long term climate goals, maintain energy security and support customers for the future.

For the electricity industry, the innovation strategy believes that the main priority in the next years should be on increasing the capacity for low and zero-carbon generation onto the grid, meeting future demands that are anticipated to rise considerably as other industries, like heat and transport increasingly become electrified. In order for this to be achieved means added investment in smart and flexible systems will be required. The investment will need to support energy storage and other demand-response systems and incorporate the latest and most innovative technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI).

The ENA has also called for many businesses to ramp up their research and development to explore the operational impact of long-duration reserve services, which will inevitably become more common as electricity generation shifts further towards renewable energy. More specifically the ENA recommends that businesses in the gas industry need to be actively creating networks and products that are focused on hydrogen and capable of supporting a wider range of ‘cleaner’ gases. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has emphasised a number of times that hydrogen is critical in supporting the decarbonisation of the heat and transport industries and meeting the net-zero target for the UK.

The domestic and global clean hydrogen industries are reportedly still very small and will require considerable support and investment from businesses and governments worldwide. The report highlights that hydrogen shouldn’t be viewed as the solution, but one of many areas that can support the entire decarbonisation process. 

The ENA is urging businesses to look beyond the development of technologies but also to support the market mechanisms required to enable a clean energy transition in the gas industry. Industry representatives and government members will need to clearly see that the transition will strengthen the industry and improve energy security for the future, and at the same time, have minimal impact on costs to consumers. 

All of the recommendations highlighted by the ENA have one thing in common, taking a ‘whole-systems’ approach, ensuring any plans meet their deliverables. For this to happen, gas and electricity businesses must communicate on development and solution plans, enable ease of data sharing and deliver clear plans and forecasts. David Smith, the CEO of ENA explains that all of the recommendations have been delivered following detailed communication with a diverse range of groups within the energy industry. Smith believes that our energy network infrastructure stands at the centre of the UK delivering a leading net-zero economy and believes this will only become more important as infrastructure becomes more involved in meeting decarbonisation plans. Smith explains that we need to ensure our network infrastructure is prepared for the future, that we adopt a transparent approach that incorporates both regional and national requirements.

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