National Grid event on SO – TO Separation


On Tuesday 7th of March 2017, Powerhouse 2030 organised an event to discuss and debate the effect of National Grids legal separation programme. We had the pleasure of hearing from Lloyd Griffiths, the Programme Director, Jennifer Doherty who is the Communication and Engagement Strategy Manager in the SO part of the business and Joe Northwood who is the Growth Strategy Lead in the ETO part of the business.

National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) is currently in the process of splitting into two entities: one to manage the electricity power flows, the SO (System Operator), and one maintaining and developing the electricity network in England and Wales, the TO (Transmission Owner).

Lloyd brought to light the significance of both parts of National Grid, the TO as the money making part of the business (approximately 95% in terms of revenue) and the strategically important and brainy System Operator section  which oversees and operates energy. The transition from TSO (Transmission System Operator) to TO and SO was analogised as a harmonious divorce and the legal implications of such a split.

Jennifer, talking from the SO perspective, highlighted the importance of the accountability that the SO has to ‘keeping the lights on’ and getting energy to the right people at the right time. However the SO does not just work in the ‘here and now’ but also looks into the future network capacity and plans for this. It also creates models and legal documents that clearly state, ‘how the system should work’. Of course there are also the control centres which manage day to day operation, but the SO focus on Future Energy Scenarios , System Operability and Network Options Assessment are very forward thinking.

Joe shared the TO perspective and reinforced that this part of the business makes the majority of theprofit and in itself would be a FTSE 50 company.  The TO is asset rich and is more physical compared to the SO, Asset Management is an integral part, as the TO owns and maintains the network, ranging from substations to pylons to the underground cables in London. The separation will allow the TO to be more independent, and Joe also touched on the timeframes of asset related projects, for example 10 years working on equipment may not even be long enough, compared to the underground cables which have a life span of 100 years, where do we actually draw the line?

Once we had heard from the speakers, we all split into smaller groups, expressing our views and opinions. Anything from decarbonising heating to Smart Meter rollout, to Battery storage, policies and real time pricing was discussed. Even though we are focusing on the UK market, we also discussed the energy framework in Denmark and also France. Overall, the evening was insightful and allowed the attendees to learn more about the buzz in NG and also discuss and input their views.

Priya Talwar


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