National Grid ESO launches world-first programme to digitise Great Britain’s energy system and advance the transition to net zero

National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) has launched a world-first programme to build a digital replica of the entire GB energy landscape, creating a virtual environment to share data, model and predict scenarios that support the decarbonisation of the energy system.

The Virtual Energy System will be a digital twin of the existing physical energy system, working in parallel to enable an accessible, unified, real-time view of every part of the GB energy system.

This virtual environment will create the ability to generate insights and new ideas and model solutions to cut real-world carbon emissions, supporting the transition to net zero while delivering long-term value to industry and consumers.

The programme comes at a time when Great Britain’s energy system is undergoing its most significant ever transition, and this announcement coincides with the annual COP26 UN climate change conference this year, taking place in Glasgow.

How the Virtual Energy System will work:

1. The development of the Virtual Energy System begins with an open framework, with agreed access, operations and security protocols.

2. Over time, this will be populated by existing and new digital twins – replicas of physical components of the energy system.

3. Each digital twin will contribute to and access real-time data on the status and operation of other elements of the system.

4. This layered data will generate insight, and a virtual environment through which to innovate ideas, with the potential to transform the system and support the transition to net zero.

Fintan Slye, Executive Director of National Grid ESO said; “Great Britain’s energy system is made up of multiple component parts which combine and interact to deliver the energy we need.

“Whilst the journey towards a carbon free future has already begun, if the UK is to meet its 2050 net zero target, it’s vital the whole energy industry works towards decarbonisation together.

“As we evolve and transition to a greener future, we’ll need to respond to a range of future challenges. And how we innovate and adapt the energy system will require a range of tools, which is where the Virtual Energy System comes in – a shared, digital national asset to help optimise the route to net zero.

“This is an ambitious world-first programme, and we can’t build it alone. We need to come together, as an industry, to help turn this vision into a reality if we are to realise a sustainable energy network for the future.”

National Grid ESO will be launching the Virtual Energy System at an industry event during COP26.

It will then host a free-to-access one-day online conference on 1 December, providing an opportunity for the energy industry and wider stakeholders to find out more about the programme and how to get involved with its design and development. Panellists include Ofgem, BEIS, Energy Digitalisation Taskforce, Energy Systems Catapult and more.

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