Electricity distribution network

Status:Evidence gathering.  

A study exploring how to ensure local distribution of electricity keeps pace with increasing demand.


The government has asked the National Infrastructure Commission to provide recommendations on the policy decisions required to make the electricity distribution network in Great Britain fit for net zero.

Our approach will be informed by the terms of reference for the electricity distribution network study (see next tab).

The lower voltage distribution network connects the high voltage electricity transmission network to homes and businesses. Smaller sources of generation and flexibility, such as solar and batteries, also connect to the distribution network. The owners of each part of the distribution network are regulated by Ofgem, which sets the outcomes that must be delivered and the revenues that may be collected.
As the economy decarbonises over the next decade and beyond, electricity demand is expected to materially increase. This increase in demand will mean electricity networks at both transmission and distribution level will need to carry more energy. The availability of capacity on the network, in terms of the volume of electricity it can carry, will be important to maintaining service levels and ensure the system is resilient. Without available capacity new sources of supply or demand will not be able to connect. This could constrain the speed of decarbonisation if, for example, consumers cannot connect electric heating appliances or electric vehicles charge points, or industry cannot secure the level of connection it needs.
Investment to increase capacity is likely to be needed, but the amount could be reduced through further application of non-network solutions, such as the use of local flexibility markets, enhanced use of demand side response and improved use of data and digitalisation.
Government has recently published a Connections Action Plan (jointly with Ofgem), which sets out plans to accelerate connections to the electricity network, and the Transmission Acceleration Action Plan, which responds to the Electricity Networks Commissioner’s report on accelerating electricity transmission network build and seeks to halve the end-to-end build time of electricity transmission network infrastructure. The Commission will take these into account in this study and build on their recommendations.
In making its recommendations, the Commission will consider:

  • the technologies and solutions that can make best use of existing network capacity, when and why capacity may need to be increased and how this could be achieved at lowest cost
  • how policy, regulations and governance structures can support the delivery of these technologies and solutions in a timely manner to maintain service levels
  • how the process of connecting new sources of demand and generation to the distribution network can be further improved, reflecting on existing work by government, Ofgem and industry in this area

The Commission will provide final recommendations to government within the next 12 months. The government has an obligation to respond to the recommendations made.

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