SO innovation strategy

Energy is the lifeblood of our economy and society. As Great Britain’s System Operator (SO) we sit at the heart of the energy system, performing a leading role in delivering energy safely and reliably while driving the transformation towards a more sustainable and decarbonised future; the challenge of a generation. As the industry transforms, we believe our role at its heart must also evolve as we call on innovative technologies, open markets and new ways of working.

 

SO innovation strategy

The SO innovation strategy has been developed in consultation with industry and sets out how we need to innovate in 2019/20 and where we want to focus our efforts to set us on the right path to 2030, described in the innovation priorities set out below.

It sets out our metrics for success going forward and outlines how we performed against those metrics over the last 12 months.

 

 

 

System Operator innovation priorities for 2019/20

01 System stability (electricity only)

 
What is driving this?

Synchronous generation supports the stability of the system. As we transform to a low-carbon energy system, synchronous generation capacity is decreasing and the system is becoming less stable. This results in faster system frequency changes, less voltage and fault ride-through stability, and makes it more difficult for both synchronous and non-synchronous generators to safely operate.

 

What do we need to do?

We need to explore new ways to enhance system stability, as well as support the safe and efficient operation of the system in times of lower stability.

02 Whole electricity system (electricity only)

 
What is driving this?

New decentralised energy resources are connecting to distribution networks, turning them into active networks and transforming the role of Distribution Network Operators (DNOs). Many of these new resources can provide valuable services to us, increasing liquidity and thus competition in our markets as well as to those of emerging Distribution System Operators (DSOs). In addition, smart technologies mean many consumers won’t just passively use power – they can become active players of the system too.

 

What do we need to do?

We need to explore innovative ways of designing and operating transmission and distribution networks.  We need a whole electricity system approach with our customers and stakeholders to ensure the delivery of services and the operation of networks are done efficiently and effectively as well as to further promote competition in our markets.

03 Future markets (electricity & gas)

 
What is driving this?

As we transform to a low-carbon energy system, it is increasingly important to explore markets for new services that can meet changing system needs, as well as markets for new products (e.g. hydrogen, stability). It is also critical that we facilitate a level playing field for all participants, both traditional and emerging to further promote competition.

 

What do we need to do?

We must work with other networks and with all market participants, traditional and new, to facilitate a cost effective and whole system approach, improving access and price signals in gas and electricity markets for new participants.

04 Forecasting of supply and demand (electricity & gas)

 
What is driving this?

This priority looks at both, short as well as long term forecasting.

Gas supply patterns are becoming more difficult to predict due to increased volatility, variability and uncertainty in the way our customers use the gas network.

Lack of visibility of intermittent embedded generation on electricity networks, combined with more complex usage patterns, makes short-term forecasting of electricity supply and demand increasingly difficult. This electricity variability is in turn causing higher usage of gas-fired generation, which then means that the variability of one system impacts that of the other. Long-term supply and demand forecasting is becoming harder to carry out as new technologies and global market forces emerge. These could lead to dramatically different end-user behaviours.

 

What do we need to do?

We need to understand the changing drivers of supply and demand, and deploy novel new ways of forecasting them. Building our capabilities in this area would support further understanding of these complex interdependencies (e.g. supply/demand scenarios). We also need to identify the underlying policies, properly model the technical constraints, the economics, revisit our assumptions on consumer behaviour, as well as the potential resulting impacts. By researching future scenarios, we can help mitigate the risk of negative outcomes and contain future bill increases.

05 Digital transformation (electricity & gas)

 
What is driving this?

Rapid digitisation and  decentralisation of the energy sector comes with many challenges:

  • on the electricity system, there is a huge increase in the data available through the proliferation of market players. New decentralised assets are often inherently unpredictable, so being able to harness this data is extremely important. Legacy systems and processes struggle to cope with the rapid increase in participants, emerging IOT data and technological advancements
  • as the gas and electricity networks become more reliant on data and aging ICT, the risk of cyber-attacks becomes exponentially greater
  • the SO is also increasingly a custodian of data on the gas and electricity networks. We have a responsibility to ensure this is collected, analysed and shared with consumers in a transparent, responsible way, allowing everyone to extract the most value.
 
What do we need to do?

We need to harness the power of Big Data through new systems, capabilities and processes. We also need to understand and test new technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and blockchain, to extract additional insights and share these in a transparent way. With everything, we need to maintain the highest standards of security and resilience which are required by the Critical National Infrastructure status of our systems.

06 Whole energy system (electricity & gas)

 
What is driving this?

The ongoing conversation around the decarbonisation of heat and transport, combined with electricity systems’ increased reliance on gas for flexibility (particularly on the distribution networks), present us with a crucial opportunity to consider the energy system as a whole, across multiple vectors (i.e. electricity and the multiple gas types) and the sectors this supports (e.g. heat, power, transport, industry).

 

What do we need to do?

We need to understand whole energy issues (e.g. decarbonisation of heat); including which stakeholders are most impacted and how operability issues are influenced by interactions between the gas and electricity systems.

We will explore how data can be used to optimise across the whole system and what changes to markets, infrastructure and regulatory mechanisms are necessary to enable this.

07 Whole gas system (gas only)

 
What is driving this?

As the energy system decarbonises there’s a growing number of new gas use types (e.g. peaking generation) as well as new types of producers (e.g. biogas, hydrogen) increasingly connecting to the gas system, particularly on distribution networks.

This is creating more complex operability situations across gas distribution and transmission (including access and charging arrangements). These new customers are requesting very different levels of service, e.g. distributed gas requesting gas compression, which can be costly to meet.

 

What do we need to do?

We need to work with Distribution Networks on new market arrangements for the whole system. We will consider the changing behaviour and requirements of those connecting to the gas networks, and their impact on the whole gas system. We must ensure we are making the most efficient and economic planning and operational decisions for the whole gas system (across transmission and distribution networks).

08 Constraint management (electricity & gas)

 
What is driving this?

For the Gas network, understanding the risk of constraints occurring and managing these effectively is becoming increasingly difficult due to more uncertainties in supply and demand patterns.

If constraints can’t be avoided or managed in the most efficient way, costs can increase dramatically for consumers while putting security of supply at risk.

 

What do we need to do?

We need to ensure gas quality does not become a barrier to trade, or to new gas sources. The technical and stakeholder accepted limits for gas specification on the NTS need to be understood, with technical and market solutions found to facilitate this wherever possible.

09 New types of gas (gas only)

 
What is driving this?

GB is becoming more reliant on imported gas, which does not match the current regulatory requirements for gas quality on the gas National Transmission System (NTS). New types of local gas supplies are also increasingly looking to connect to the network (e.g. shale gas, hydrogen, biomethane etc.)

 

What do we need to do?

We need to ensure gas quality does not become a barrier to trade, or to new gas sources. The technical and stakeholder accepted limits for gas specification on the NTS need to be understood, with technical and market solutions found to facilitate this wherever possible.

10 System restoration (electricity only)

 
What is driving this?

The availability of conventional Black Start service providers is expected to decrease as part of the shift away from conventional thermal generation.

 

What do we need to do?

We will look for alternative approaches to Black Start, and new strategies to restore the system.