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New £450m fund to support energy network innovation

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A new £450 million (€524 million) fund opened on 31 August will unlock greener ways to travel and to hear and power homes and businesses in the UK.

The fund will explore ways of harnessing a new approach to energy network innovation that will keep bills as low as possible while driving the UK towards its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, and helping to turn the UK into the ‘Silicon Valley’ of energy.

The fund is part of UK independent energy regulator Ofgem’s RII02 price controls for the electricity system operator and the network companies that operate the nation’s energy pipes and wires. The fund will be approved by Ofgem and managed in partnership with Innovate UK.

A total of £450 million (€524 million) will initially become available over the next five years through the fund, with the option to increase in response to need and if innovators bring forward strong plans. Together, network companies, system operators, leading businesses and researchers will use the money to drive ‘big ideas’ that accelerate the transition to an emissions-free energy system.

To apply for the first round of funding, network companies must address four major strategic challenges that are crucial for the energy transition: whole system integration, data and digitalisation, heat, and transport.

Projects could range from ensuring the networks are ready to roll out clean heating solutions such as heat pumps to UK homes, to developing ways for network companies to work together across transmission, distribution, system operation, gas and electricity.

Eligible projects could also include developing new technologies for networks to support flexible energy solutions, such as battery storage technology, to ensure electricity is used and stored more effectively, thereby reducing bill sand emissions.

“What we need now more than ever to reduce GHG emissions and reach net zero is innovation,” said Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem.

“The Strategic Innovation Fund means cutting-edge ideas and new technologies become a reality, helping us find greener ways to travel and to heat and power the UK at low cost.

“The UK’s energy infrastructure will play a pivotal role in cutting net-zero GHG emissions, and this fund will help make sure our energy system is ready to deliver that.”