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Future Worlds: Citizens Advice’s response to the Open Networks project’s consultation

27 September 2018

Future Worlds: Citizens Advice’s response to the Open Networks project’s consultation [ 170 kb]

The ENA’s Open Networks project has developed five scenarios (“Future Worlds”) of how, in the future, the electricity system could be better coordinated and use Distributed Energy Resources more effectively. In our consultation response we give our views on these future scenarios, outline how we think neutral market facilitation can be achieved, and suggest further criteria to assess these scenarios against.

The focus on delivering flexibility markets is also timely. Consumers stand to benefit from a smart energy system, which is calculated to be £17-40bn cheaper than our current one. Most of these benefits will manifest themselves as savings, i.e. avoided costs, to consumers. But if flexibility markets are designed well, consumers will also be able to earn money directly by selling their flexibility as a service.

That said, we believe that taking part in any form of flexibility market should always be a choice, not a requirement. There is a real risk that consumers who, for whatever reason, are not able to be flexible in their energy use, end up footing higher energy bills. For those consumers, sufficient protections and support must be put in place, and we are contributing to the development of such protections through our work on Ofgem’s Targeted Charging Review and Half-Hourly Settlement reform.

Citizens Advice, at this stage, has no firm preference for which “Future World” should be implemented, nor which exact functions DSOs should take on. We support the approach taken by the Open Networks project to, in the first instance, define functions that need to be carried out and conducting a thorough impact assessment before spending consumers’ money on changes that will later become redundant. That said, we urge the Open Networks project and individual network companies to progress with building a smart grid, and improving system efficiency by utilising demand side response, distributed generation and energy efficiency. Current and future consumer are losing out if they continue operating GB’s networks with a business as usual approach.