Accelerating the transition to net zero energy systems in the UK

40 novel projects indicate an essential strengthening of energy network innovation to help the transition to net zero energy systems in the UK. 

The projects will investigate novel concepts for gas and electricity networks, with the potential to benefit consumers and assist in the transition to net zero energy systems in the UK. 

These unique projects are the first to be authorised under Ofgem’s new Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) partnership with Innovate UK. The projects will be financed with up to £150,000 to undertake a two-month ‘discovery’ phase on their proposal to further explore their potential.  

Overcoming difficulties  

The projects focus on some of the greatest difficulties that energy networks face in the transition to net zero and focus on: 

  • Heat; 
  • zero emission transport; 
  • data and digitalisation; and 
  • whole system integration. 

The projects 

The innovations being investigated have a wide scope:  

  • technologies and methods taken for the large-scale storage of heat; and 
  • circuit breakers allowing the expanding amounts of power from offshore wind turbines to be connected to the grid. 

The projects include ‘Eye in the Sky’, which examines how satellite data can be utilised in emergencies – like flooding or wildfires – to prepare for electricity grid repairs. 

Other projects assess technologies connected to the future uses of hydrogen in our energy system including: 

  • helping electric vehicle charging handle the busiest times using hydrogen; 
  • examining novel metallic coatings which will protect pipework from accelerated wear and tea; and 
  • the possibility for employing nuclear power to generate hydrogen. 

Zero emission transport 

As well as this, there are studies planning for the transition to zero-emission transport: 

  • looking at utilising hydrogen to power heavy-duty vehicles; and 
  • establishing a toolkit to assist planners in understanding how gas and electricity networks can help decarbonise rail transport. 

Transitioning to low carbon energy 

Neil Kenward, Ofgem Director for Strategy and Decarbonisation explained: “Innovation in the energy sector is crucial to help us transform the way we travel, heat our homes and fuel our industries at the lowest cost to consumers. 

“Ofgem set up the SIF to help accelerate a transition to low carbon energy, which is fair, affordable and inclusive for consumers. 

“We hope these 40 pioneering green projects will blaze a trail in innovation that will help us diversify our energy supplies, protecting consumers from future energy shocks as well as protecting the planet.” 

Towards a green economy 

Indro Mukerjee, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, added: “We are very pleased to be working closely with Ofgem and the energy sector on the SIF, and pleased with its progress. 

“Innovate UK is committed to supporting the UK’s world-leading businesses and researchers to shape a sustainable and fair future economy.” 

New approaches to UK energy networks 

Matt Hastings, Deputy Director of the Ofgem SIF programme at Innovate UK, concluded: “The SIF aims to respond to the urgency needed to deliver net zero. 

“Launching 40 projects in parallel, involving 100% of the UK energy networks, shows we can embrace new approaches, move quickly, and take more calculated risks. 

“We strongly believe we can make the UK the best place in the world to be an energy consumer, and the best place in the world to be an energy entrepreneur. 

“Working together, we can use the SIF to help turn the UK into the ‘Silicon Valley’ of energy.” 

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