Comment: Digital innovation can help drive net zero in 2024

Carolina Tortora, Head of Digital Transformation and Innovation Strategy at National Grid ESO, looks forward to a big year ahead for the operator.

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Adopting the latest technological advancements and digital innovations is crucial for Britain to achieve Net Zero by 2050. Technology and digitalisation, when applied correctly, have the potential to facilitate data-driven decision making, optimise resource utilisation and seamlessly integrate renewable energy sources, electrified transportation, and other sustainable practices. The ESO and the government have now signed an MOU to accelerate data sharing in energy and digital twins going forward.

To progress our journey to Net Zero and meet decarbonisation targets, the industry must prioritise three things:

  • Increased digitalisation
  • Stronger industry collaboration
  • Widescale participation

Increased digitalisation

By harnessing the potential of technology, the energy industry has put itself on a path of transformation, streamlining processes, and optimising resource usage in the process. A surge in digital innovation has seen the arrival of smart grids, AI-powered energy management systems, and Internet of Things-enabled devices. These have all helped improve the industry’s operational efficiency while reducing environmental impact.


The use of digital twins is also enabling the secure and resilient sharing of energy data across organisations. By sharing data more widely, we can accelerate data democratisation within the industry, offering greater transparency as we seek to develop solutions alongside industry partners. The insights generated by digital twins will allow those working in the sector to keep pace with industry changes, create new opportunities, and drive innovation.  

These technological advancements empower the UK to develop and implement strategies aimed at reducing carbon emissions while bolstering energy system resilience. By harnessing real-time data analytics and simulation through digital twins, the UK can make informed decisions and deliver innovative solutions for renewable energy integration. This digital transformation not only propels the nation towards its net zero objectives but also establishes the UK as a frontrunner in sustainable and technologically advanced energy systems globally.

Stronger industry collaboration

Collaboration within the energy industry is pivotal for achieving net zero emissions as it fosters collective innovation, knowledge-sharing, and the implementation of comprehensive solutions necessary to transition to a sustainable and low-carbon future.

The development of systems that facilitate digitalisation across the industry pave the way for greater cross collaboration. The purpose of the ESO’s MOU with the government is to establish the understanding and general principles of cooperation between the actors in the energy sector in relation to the technical alignment of data sharing and collaboration.

The benefits of closer industry collaboration in 2024 will include:

  1. Data accessibility and sharing: We all need to be speaking the same language if we want to reap the benefits of digital transformation – this starts with an alignment on how we access and publish data. Through increased visibility and sharing, data owners can play a key role in ensuring shareability regardless of underlying protocols or individual systems. This will allow industry actors to break down informational siloes to enhance delivery.
  2. Real-time and right-time monitoring: Digital technologies enable real-time and right-time monitoring and control of energy systems. These capabilities facilitate faster, better, more co-ordinated decision making among different entities in energy production, distribution, and consumption.
  3. Collaborative innovation: Through shared data previously separate organisations are encouraged to work together to drive new solutions. Collaborative efforts can concentrate on developing and deploying innovative solutions for renewable energy integration, grid optimisation, energy storage, and more.

Widescale participation

As the energy system grows and continues to use various digital innovations, use cases will play a crucial role in demonstrating practical examples of how these technologies can be applied to the real world and their benefits. They showcase how digital twins and other advanced technology solutions can increase effectiveness in managing the grid, integrating renewable energy, and engaging consumers while encouraging involvement from key stakeholders.

For instance, the Powering Wales Renewably project sees the ESO work alongside the Welsh government to support the nation’s pioneering decarbonisation plans.

Digital twin technology has the power to equip Wales with a whole-system view of its electricity transmission and distribution network, enabling a wealth of opportunities. The system will help partners identify how networks can enable greater use of Welsh renewable electricity from a whole system perspective, aiding the progress in delivering the Welsh government’s decarbonisation goals.

This project will also empower communities by proactively suggesting actionable, location-specific solution options.

As an increasing number of projects are launched, their individual successes can provide inspiration for new ideas, encouraging other organisations to follow suit and join the nationwide effort to drive effectiveness across Britain’s energy system.

Looking to 2024

The role of digital innovation is ever increasing in the UK’s move towards net-zero. The overall aim is to support human decision making by ensuring it is as accurate, data- driven and efficient as possible. The energy sector has taken big strides to maximise the power of data. By continuing to drive adoption of technology, Britain will be best placed to reach its long-term goals.

Critically, successful system-wide digitalisation will enable people working in the sector to make full picture decisions on future data, infrastructure, and drive innovation. With alignment between government and industry, the British energy sector is set to accelerate its progress towards a digital future. Following an exciting couple of years, I look forward to seeing the progress that 2024 brings.

Carolina Tortora is Head of Digital Transformation and Innovation Strategy at National Grid ESO