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Distribution System Operator

A Distribution Network Operator (DNO) does not just decide to be a Distribution System Operator (DSO), it is a long-term journey and transition which will ultimately enable our Net Zero agenda and support the realisation of our Just Transition Strategy – ensuring that no one is left behind in the energy transition. 

Historically, a DNO is responsible for keeping the lights on. It is the DNO’s responsibility to make sure that the network is sufficiently large and inherently safe, and that the infrastructure is in place to distribute electricity. However, the way that energy is used is changing. New low carbon technology is being adopted in the transition to Net Zero, which is changing the nature of supply and demand, and leads to the need for the electricity system to be managed in a much more dynamic way.

In addition, digital capabilities are rapidly developing, creating a wealth of new data and information. Every home and small business that has a meter is being offered the opportunity to install a smart meter. Over time, smart meters will provide significantly more information about how energy is being consumed, couple this with new and more dynamic technology on the network and the whole way that the distribution system will function and be managed will change radically. Our transition to becoming a DSO will be driven by the needs of our stakeholders, deliver benefits for the communities we serve, and ensure value for our customers.


Our DSO Strategy

Our DSO strategy sets out our ambition and commitment to the DSO transition, and how we will support our customers and stakeholders to realise their Net Zero ambitions.

Our DSO Conference

We welcomed a collection of stakeholders and industry experts to our first Distribution System Operator (DSO) conference. To realise the goal of Net Zero, we need to create opportunities for collaboration across the industry, and ensure that the pace of change is delivered by all parties.

The Roles of Distribution System Operation  

DSOs play a pivotal role in the energy system, connecting energy producers and consumers, flexibility providers, Network Operators and System Operators. As we stand at the crossroads of technological innovation, regulatory shifts, and sustainability imperatives, it is essential that we have a robust DSO Strategy and that we can deliver on the network developments required to unlock the benefits of the Net Zero transition.

Regulatory frameworks are also adapting to accommodate these changes, challenging DSOs to be agile and forward-thinking in their strategies. In 2022, Ofgem set out the three roles of a DSO, and as part of our own evolution, we undertook a review of our organisational model and have reorganised to meet challenges ahead – improving the transparency in our processes and embedding accountability within our structures.

At the heart of our new organisational model are the three core roles of the DSO, supported by the fourth and fundamental role of Data and Information. Establishing our DSO functions was a priority for the beginning of the RIIO-ED2 period. These roles are separated within our organisation to support transparency in our decision making. The identification of existing or future constraints is undertaken within our Planning and Network Development team,  the procurement of flexibility services is carried out by our Flexibility team, and if flexibility is deemed to be the most cost-effective solution, it will be dispatched by our Network Operations Control Room.

Our Decision-making framework transparently explains the process we all follow to decide when and where to rely on flexibility services, giving customers and stakeholders confidence that we are using the most appropriate interventions, giving flexibility market participants confidence that we are a neutral market facilitator, and addressing conflict-of-interest concerns. You can read our published Decision-Making Framework.

Planning & Network DevelopmentData & InformationData & InformationNetwork OperationsMarket DevelopmentPlanning & Network DevelopmentNetwork OperationsMarket Development


Our DSO Performance Panel Submission

You can read about our DSO activities in our first year of RIIO-ED2 in our Performance Panel Submission



Innovation and Collaboration for DSO

Innovation is at the heart of our DSO transition, and through industry leading and innovative solutions, we are paving the way in developing solutions which support the decarbonisation of society. This includes pioneering work on a strategy for the roll-out of public Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure across North and South Lanarkshire, the study of uptake and optimisation of electrification of heating for our communities, and exploring how Distributed Energy Resources (DER) can be used to restore power in the highly unlikely event of a total or partial shutdown of the National Electricity Transmission System.



The rollout of public Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure is essential to meeting the Scottish and UK Governments’ Net zero and carbon reduction targets as this will support customers and communities adoption of electric vehicles. Project PACE helps to achieve these goals by delivering a strategic network of public electric vehicle chargers across North and South Lanarkshire whilst piloting an innovative electricity Distribution Network Operator (DNO) led delivery model. 


Heat Up

The decarbonisation of heating in our homes will be a huge step towards the UK’s goal of net zero by 2050 and in Scotland by 2045. SP Energy Networks will play a key role in achieving these targets and through the Heat-Up project, we are looking to better understand the how this fundamental change in the way we heat our homes will impact on the electricity network. The learnings from this project will be a key enabler for the transition to electrified heat both now and well into the future.  


Distributed Restart

The project is exploring how distributed energy resources (DER) can be used to restore power in the highly unlikely event of a total or partial shutdown of the National Electricity Transmission System. The Distributed ReStart project is a partnership between National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO), SP Energy Networks  and TNEI (a specialist energy consultancy) that has been awarded £10.3 million of Network Innovation Competition (NIC) funding.



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