SSEN amongst DNOs to support move to smart grid

Image: Shetland was used to demonstrate the benefits of a DSO transition through the Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) project

A major energy industry project has taken a significant step forward today, as the operators of the country’s electricity networks, including Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), formally set out for the first time how the role of our local electricity networks will change as the UK’s smart energy grid becomes a reality.

Innovation has already enabled close to £1bn of cost savings across GB that will be delivered between now and 2023, clearly demonstrating the economic potential of smarter networks.

The Open Networks Project, led by the Energy Networks Association and fully backed by SSEN, is a major initiative in the process of re-defining how our energy networks will operate in the future as we head into a new era of using smarter technology. The changes will give British households, businesses and communities the ability to take advantage of a new range of energy technologies and services to take control of their energy and lower their costs, including renewable generation, energy storage and electric vehicles.

SSEN believes customer interests are best protected by transition from the traditional Distribution Network Operator (DNO) model to a prominent Distributed System Operator (DSO) role. It is our view this transition will help meet the needs of a flexible and de-carbonised electricity system, whilst ensuring the network remains resilient and affordable.

We’ve led the way in demonstrating the benefits of a DSO transition through the Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) project. Conducted between 2012-2017 NINES was the first time Active Network Management was deployed at scale in the UK. The headline result was that NINES enabled a 200% increase in renewable energy alongside a significant reduction in diesel generation, which is traditionally used to meet fluctuations in supply and demand.

In Great Britain the RIIO [Revenue=Incentives+Innovation+Outputs] framework encourages network operators like SSEN to innovate in order to reduce costs to customers. For example RIIO provides SSEN with the opportunity to use non-network solutions to defer or avoid network reinforcement where it is deemed more cost efficient.

SSEN continues to work with government, the regulator Ofgem and wider industry to share our findings and help deliver a system that is fair, transparent and reliable. Going forward a strategic approach to support the transition to a more flexible and active electricity distribution network, through the RIIO price control, is desired if it is to be delivered cost-effectively and efficiently. Through engagement with the ENA, DNOs will work together to develop and adhere to a roadmap towards a DSO.