System operator innovation

We are working with innovation partners to adapt to changes in the energy system. New energy technologies and more renewables mean that we need to operate the grid in new and different ways. Our strategy outlines innovation opportunities that we want to solve in partnership with you.


System Operator Innovation Strategy

Three mega-trends are shaping the future energy system. These are changing supply and demand patterns, creating opportunities for new players and new markets, and presenting challenges to the way the grid is operated.

The SO’s innovation strategy breaks down these mega-trends into sector issues and addresses them with 16 innovation priorities (below). Read our innovation strategy here.

Developing Distribution System Operators (DSOs) & whole system operability

As increasing amounts of energy resource connect to distribution networks, and as consumers gain the ability to actively manage demand, network operators are changing their behaviours to support and enable this. Joined up approaches across transmission and distribution, and across energy vectors, need to be developed to meet these challenges.

Improving short-term forecasting of generation/supply and demand

Lack of visibility of intermittent embedded generation on electricity networks, combined with more complex usage patterns, makes short-term forecasting of electricity supply and demand increasingly difficult. On the gas network, supply patterns are becoming more difficult to predict as sources shift between UK and imported gas. Also gas-fired generation is increasingly being used for system balancing and operability, which is shifting electricity variability to the gas transmission and distribution networks. We need to understand the changing drivers of supply and demand, and deploy novel new ways of forecasting them.

Managing volatility in a low-inertia system

Electricity system inertia is decreasing as we transition from conventional (e.g. synchronous spinning plant) to inverter connected (e.g. wind and solar) generation, leading to faster changes in system frequency. New methods of controlling frequency need to be developed to manage this volatility.

Analytics in a data-enabled future

A more complex energy system and the huge increase in data available through the Internet of Things, smart meters and third party technologies requires enhanced capabilities to process, analyse and leverage.

Delivering enhanced cyber security

The frequency of cyber-attacks is growing and so is the danger to the energy systems due to the rapid digitisation of energy assets, and growing number and decentralisation of these assets. This requires new and enhanced security measures to mitigate the risk.

Enabling more non-synchronous connections

Inverter-connected power generation is sensitive to rates of change of frequency (RoCoF), meaning that more actions are required to manage the electricity system and mitigate the risk of generator disconnection, which increases operating costs. We need to better understand the system impacts of high penetration of inverter-connected power generation, and find efficient approaches to integrating this technology.

Supporting voltage and reactive power

On the electricity network, requirements have moved from generating to absorption of reactive power, driven by lower transmission demands and increased reactive power contribution from distribution networks. We will explore how new technologies and commercial approaches can help support voltage across networks.

Optimising constraint management

Increased penetration of non-dispatchable power generation, often geographically concentrated, is exacerbating instances of having to constrain electricity generation. Capacity restrictions and compression limitations are also leading to constraints on the gas network. We will explore how new technologies and commercial approaches can better prepare for, manage and minimise constraint costs.

Redesigning system restoration

The availability of conventional Black Start service providers is expected to decrease as part of the shift away from conventional thermal generation. We will look for alternatives sources of Black Start, and new strategies to restore the system.

Creating markets for the future

As electricity and gas markets change, it’s increasingly important to create markets for services that can meet our changing system needs and to work with distribution networks to facilitate a whole-system approach.

Harnessing the Digitised Grid

We need to harness the capabilities of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing and blockchain, while maintaining the highest standards of security and resilience which are required by our CNI (Critical National Infrastructure) status.

Understanding long-term behavioural change in consumption and generation

Long-term supply and demand forecasting is becoming increasingly difficult as new technologies rapidly emerge in power, heating, transport and in other sectors. These new technologies, and the business models they enable, could lead to dramatically changed end-user behaviour. We need to understand and model the underlying policy, technical, economic and consumer assumptions and outcomes.

Enabling changing gas flows

The NTS is designed for north to south flows and transmission to distribution flows but this will change as North Sea gas supplies decline and more low-carbon gas is produced at distribution level. We need to understand possible future flows and how to enable them.

Enhancing visibility of Distributed Energy Resources (DER)

We have varying degrees of visibility around the connection, capacity and output of distributed energy resources. Their growing prominence will affect our ability to maintain a balanced system and procure and settle firm, cost-effective balancing services. We will explore novel new approaches to sharing more real-time data with network operators and other market participants.

Unlocking Flexibility

Flexibility on the electricity system has traditionally been supplied by a combination of dispatchable generation and large-scale storage (pumped hydroelectric). However, as the proportion of conventional flexible generation declines, NGSO has fewer options available to carry out our role in managing system balance and operability. Flexibility will also become progressively more important for the gas network, as gas fired power stations are increasingly used to provide backup and flexibility for intermittent electricity generation, as well as more volatile energy sources and other demands for gas. We will test new technologies and markets for flexibility.

Embracing Gas specification diversity

The current gas quality standards needed to enter the NTS are based on North Sea gas; however GB is becoming increasingly reliant on imported gas which does not meet these standards. This requires work to ensure gas quality does not become a barrier to trade or to new sources of gas.


Work with us

We work with industry and academic partners to develop and deliver innovation projects. The SO’s Innovation Team is here to connect stakeholders with the right people inside National Grid. We develop innovation projects from concept to implementation, collaborating internally and with suppliers to get projects off the ground. The innovation cycle shows you how and when to get involved. See the How we Work document for full details here.

Or get in touch by emailing [email protected].


Power Potential project

This initiative aims to create a new reactive power market for distributed energy resources (DER) and generate additional capacity on the network.

Find out more

Enhanced Frequency Control Capability (EFCC) Project

Facing the challenge of maintaining the 50 Hz frequency stability on the transmission system as new generation technologies come online, such as solar and wind.

Find out more