All six of the distribution network operators (DNOs) in Great Britain have signed up to a pledge to consider flexibility services as an alternative to reinforcements when managing local grid constraints.

The flexibility commitment published by the Energy Networks Association (ENA) today (13 December) covers all new projects of “significant value”.

DNOs will test the market to see whether smart services from new technologies such as demand-side response, battery storage and electric vehicles offer a cheaper solution to network congestion than new infrastructure such as wires, transformers and substations.

The companies hope the pledge will stimulate the aggregation of flexibility services provided by homes, businesses and generators via energy suppliers and others.

They have also committed to work with Ofgem to ensure the second round of RIIO price controls, starting in 2023 for electricity distribution, do not provide financial incentives that favour the building of new infrastructure where flexibility services would be more cost-effective.

“Like so many other parts of our world right now, the public is starting to see that their energy system is undergoing an important digital transformation,” said ENA chief executive David Smith. “Our energy networks are committed to operating an efficient, smart, clean energy system that is fit for the British public.”

“Our commitment will enable new energy markets across the country, creating new opportunities for people to further benefit from the latest smart technologies being used in their homes and businesses. That’s good for the public, good for the system and good for our decarbonisation goals.”

The ENA released new figures in July 2018 showing DNOs had already procured 270MW of flexibility services. This tally is expected to rise to well over 320MW by the end of 2018 – more than 10 per cent of the capacity of the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station currently under construction in Somerset. The ENA will give an updated forecast in the first quarter of 2019.

As part of its Open Networks project, the association has also published a new connections guide for those wishing to link up to the power grid on a flexible basis.

Earlier this month, Western Power Distribution became the last of six DNOs to join a trial of a new online platform for the procurement of flexibility services called Piclo Flex.