An international knowledge-sharing partnership of distribution network operators (DNOs) and community energy organisations has been launched, co-founded by Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) and convened by the University of Oxford and Enel Foundation.

First introduced at COP26, the International Community for Local Smart Grids (ICLSG) will undertake ground-breaking research that will be informed by the learnings and expertise of the partners.  

Climate change is an international challenge that demands local solutions. The partners announced today are drawn from Great Britain, Italy, Japan, New Zealand and Australia and are committed to securing a fair, cost-effective transition to net zero. To achieve that, the ICLSG believes that the relationship between communities and smart grids must be championed.  

For DNOs, the net zero transition means supporting the electrification of vehicles and heating, plus new requirements for homes and businesses who may wish to generate electricity. Networks must be smart and adapt at unprecedented speeds to the new requirements for powering their communities, while ensuring a ‘just transition’ for their customers.  

Community energy organisations are rooted in their communities’ priorities for net zero and are working to ensure their solutions work socially, environmentally and financially. They provide a vital bridge to foster understanding of the opportunities and challenges that a transition to a zero-carbon energy system raises.   

The partnership has recently appointed engineer Dr Katherine Collett as Senior Researcher at the University of Oxford, on the five-year ICLSG research programme, that will explore how smart grids can support net zero technologies in a way that is good for people and good for the planet.  

Professor Malcolm McCulloch who will be leading the research and is Head of the Energy and Power Group, part of the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, said:  

“From Oxford to Waikato and from Sydney to Tokyo, the climates and regulatory structures within which DNOs and communities operate may be very different, but all our partners are tackling the same problems of how to innovate and cooperate as the world turns to zero carbon technologies.  

“Our research will draw in learnings from partners’ smart grid and community trials and will identify and develop the tools needed to deliver a just transition to net zero.” 

TEPCO Power Grid President Yoshinori Kaneko said: 

“We are excited to be part of the international partnership among network operators to share Japanese experiences and learn from best practices around the world to achieve carbon neutrality and strengthen the resilience of power grids to better serve our customers.” 

Briony O’Shea, Chair of the Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia (CORENA), said: 

“The Citizens Own Renewable Energy Network Australia is looking forward to participating in this partnership which will allow us to contribute to research priorities and learn from community energy groups and network operators around the world. This will be of great value to our local renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.”  

As New Zealand’s industry partner representative, Waikato-based electricity distributor WEL Networks Chief Executive Garth Dibley said: 

“The electricity industry is heading into a period of unprecedented change driven largely by the necessity to meet international carbon reduction requirements to ensure reasonable outcomes for the environment. We are looking forward to working with the ICLSG to collaboratively find innovative ways to provide a strong, safe, efficient and reliable supply of electricity as we continue to support New Zealand’s Net Zero goal of becoming 100% renewable by 2030.” 

ICLSG partners are: 

Research partners
University of Oxford
Enel Foundation

Network operators
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution
Ausgrid
TEPCO Power Grid
WEL Networks

Community Partners
CORENA
Low Carbon Hub

To learn more, visit communitysmartgrids.org 

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

We are the electricity Distribution Network Operator (DNO) responsible for delivering power to over 3.8 million homes and businesses across central southern England and the north of Scotland. We serve some of the most diverse and unique geographies across the UK, and keep customers and communities connected whilst developing the flexible electricity network vital to achieving net zero.