Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund pushes ahead with projects

Electricity Grid Ofgem's

18 innovative projects worth a total of £8 million, will begin in August after having been given the go-ahead under Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) partnership with Innovate UK.

The partnership aims to help accelerate the transition over time away from costly imported gas supplies to more homegrown, decarbonised energy at the lowest cost to consumers and turn the UK into a centre of energy innovation.

The projects are led by energy network companies working with a range of partners in technology, innovation, and research. They follow on from feasibility studies carried out in spring 2022 with initial ‘Discovery’ funding from the SIF, and won further funding through a competitive process.

The projects all go deeper into developing promising new ideas for gas and electricity networks, with the potential to help transform the UK’s energy systems in line with net-zero targets and benefit consumers in the coming years.

The innovations explored range from technologies for the large-scale storage of heat, to circuit breakers which will enable the increasing amounts of power from offshore wind turbines to be connected efficiently to the grid. Several projects look at technologies which will enable the future use of hydrogen in the energy system – from compression and blending of hydrogen for use in gas networks, to testing new coatings which will protect pipework from accelerated wear and tear.

Other projects are exploring how weather data can be used to predicts risks and faults in energy networks and testing new superconductor cables which can transmit high levels of energy more efficiently, with three to ten times the power density of existing cables.

The project teams now have six months to explore their concepts in detail, after which they can enter a further competition for large-scale funding to take their innovation towards market readiness.

The aim is to develop transformative new technologies, products and services which can be rolled out across all UK energy networks, making them fit for the future and delivering benefits for both consumers and the planet.

Neil Kenward, Ofgem director for strategy and decarbonisation said: “Innovation in energy is a vital part of the process of bringing down the cost for energy consumers, accelerating the  decarbonisation of our energy system and reducing our dependence on costly imported fossil fuels, over time. We have to transform the way we travel, heat our homes, and fuel our industries, and energy networks will need to innovate accordingly.

“Ofgem set up the Strategic Innovation Fund to help accelerate this transition in a way that is fair and affordable for consumers. I am very pleased to see these innovative ideas progress from the feasibility study stage and take the next step towards becoming a reality. They are all part of a concerted drive which will help us diversify our energy supplies in the future, protecting consumers from future energy shocks while also protecting the planet.”

Matt Hastings, deputy director of the Ofgem SIF programme at Innovate UK, said: “We cannot escape the urgency of achieving net-zero and the massive pressures on consumers at this hugely challenging time for us all. The SIF is an optimistic ray of hope and seeing these 18 projects lining up to address some of key barriers in the road to net zero is something we feel proud to be part of. It is only going to get better as these round one Alpha projects progress, and when we launch the round two Discovery stage competition later this year.”

The Strategic Innovation Fund is a five-year programme with up to £450m available to promote energy network innovation. Ofgem and Innovate UK have announced further innovation challenges for round two of the SIF, working closely with all energy networks, network users and consumers, and will issue another call for feasibility study proposals in the autumn of 2022.

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