Merlin Hyman, Tamar Bourne and Ray Arrell reflect on Regen’s work with ENA and the networks, to develop and launch a set of new strategies for network innovation.
Working with the ENA and the energy networks over the past six months to develop their new network innovation strategies, published today, has been a unique opportunity to help shape the future of our energy system. These strategies guide substantial investment in innovation projects that are helping shape our critical energy infrastructure for a zero carbon future.
An extensive process of stakeholder engagement has been at the heart of the development of these strategies. In a rapidly changing system, it is clear that energy networks don’t have all the answers.
Through a series of interviews, online consultation and workshops, we took input from a wide range of organisations, innovators and communities. We were particularly keen to show stakeholders that their input was having an impact, so at each stage, we shared a report on what we had learnt and how the strategies changed as a result.
One of the most notable aspects of engaging with such a variety of stakeholders was the degree of consensus about the key principles and broad themes that the innovation strategies should focus on. The clear national commitment to achieving net zero carbon has enabled stakeholders to all agree on the same goal and to focus on the practical routes to changing the energy system.
A key change from the previous strategies is that the same principles and themes for innovation have been agreed for electricity and gas networks. Indeed many of the key focus areas underneath these themes are also common. We were surprised by how naturally this ‘whole system’ thinking emerged out of the stakeholder workshops. The widespread recognition that we will need to tackle heat, power and transport in a joined-up way is a clear step forward.
Another strong message was to ensure there was a clear focus on all projects benefitting network customers, with a particular focus on those consumers that are more vulnerable. We were pleased to see in our stakeholder sessions a message from both large companies and community groups, of the importance of enabling everyone to experience the benefits of the energy transition. You cannot achieve a change of the scale of net zero carbon without bringing people along with you.
By clearly setting out the principles and themes that will guide the innovation in our energy networks, we hope these strategies will help a much wider range of organisations and people with new technologies and great ideas to work with the networks – developing and running exciting projects that will transform our energy system for a zero carbon future.
Merlin Hyman, chief executive
Tamar Bourne, senior project manager
Ray Arrell, head of technical development