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Future projects and ideas

Our primary sources of innovation funding are facilitated through Ofgem, the industry regulator. Ofgem has established a variety of funding mechanisms to develop future networks that support the Government’s net-zero commitments. In RIIO-ED1 Ofgem introduced the Network Innovation Allowance (NIA) and Network Innovation Competition (NIC) to replace the previous schemes.

Developing and delivering innovation projects for the future of energy in GB involves a wide range of parties to ensure suitable solutions. We understand that third parties, both with a history in the energy industry and not, have a significant role to play in the innovation and transition required.

We rely on innovation to maintain our position as a frontier performer in network performance and customer service. Innovation is targeted at all of the key outputs safety, cost efficiency, customer service, reliability and environment. In the past innovation has proved beneficial by allowing us to continually improve in these areas. Future innovation will allow us to continue these improvements and will also help us to address the challenges brought about by the net-zero commitment.

We’re committed to increasing the level of third party interaction further, with a particular focus on third party originated projects on our key focus and priority areas, through our individual NIA calls and the NIC electricity and gas collaborative call managed through ENA.

Third party calls for proposals

Our approach

We have, to date, run three NIC calls, two individually and the last collaboratively with all other LNOs through ENA. Five of the seven bid submissions were third party project proposals. These proposals have focussed on our innovation themes of assets, customers and operations as well as the five innovation themes in the ENA Electricity Innovation Strategy.

We are committed to continuing with ENA’s collaborative call for NIC proposals as well as co-generating ideas with organisations, principally on our current focus and priority areas, as set out in our Innovation Forward Plan.

Our previous NIA calls have either focussed on specific needs from our Innovation Strategy or a wider industry need, however, moving forwards we will use our Innovation Forward Plan to outline the key areas for innovation and our current innovation needs, as highlighted in the problem statements and challenges section.

Future calls

Our future calls for project proposals will all be made available on ENA’s Collaboration Portal, Achilles and our innovation website to ensure as wide an engagement as possible. Those registered for website updates will receive an email notification once the call is open. To register for website updates, please click here.

We are always keen to receive project proposals from third parties and particularly new entrants with disruptive innovations to provide step change solutions to deliver the future outcomes to shape the operation of a DSO and facilitate the low carbon transition.

It is critical that proposals to our calls adhere to the Ofgem NIA and NIC Governance and we’d encourage organisations to review these prior to submitting a proposal, specifically in terms of the

criteria to enable funding and the intellectual property conditions to ensure value is delivered to customers.

NIA 2020

Our NIA call closed on 9th November 2020 and we had a total of 24 submissions. This call focussed on vulnerable customers and how we can improve access to smart solutions for all our customers as highlighted in our Innovation Strategy as a priority area.

Our next call will take place in 2021. We will update this space nearer the time with further details.

NIC 2020

Our NIC Call closed on the 8th December 2020. The call focused on ideas to improve our understanding and capabilities around:

  • Use of data in the energy transition – How can we best use new or existing data to plan and operate our networks more efficiently and effectively, and create value for stakeholders?
  • Electrification of heat – How will this impact our networks, and how can we leverage customer flexibility?
  • Decarbonisation & Net-Zero – How can we best help local authorities to understand and act on the implications of local decarbonisation ambitions?
  • Electrification of transport – How can we facilitate additional network capacity to support EV charging in constrained network areas?

The NIC is an annual funding scheme for the development and demonstration of new technologies, operating and commercial arrangements. Funding will be provided for the best innovation projects which help all network operators understand what they need to do to provide environmental benefits, reduce costs, and maintain security as Great Britain moves to a low carbon economy. Typically, NIC projects run for three to four years, allowing sufficient time to design, develop, test, and trial new solutions. Budgets for NIC projects range from approx. £3M to £20M. Take a look at our current project – DC Share as an example.

Wider submission of project ideas

If you have an innovation project idea outside of one of our calls for proposals please submit your idea using the form here.

As with the call for proposals we’re keen to develop innovation projects that align to our Innovation Strategy and Forward Plan.

Please note that we will not be accepting ideas using this form when we have a live call for proposals.