How can a flexible energy system help deliver net zero?

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The launch of a vital project that will investigate the role of a flexible energy system in achieving a net zero economy has been announced today by a new cross sector consortium. The project, led by the Carbon Trust and supported by Imperial College, will explore the potential for an integrated and flexible energy system to reduce the cost of reaching the UK’s net zero economy goal by 2050. 

The Flexibility in Great Britain project will conduct in-depth analysis based on modelling, research and stakeholder interviews to investigate how different sources of flexibility across the heat, transport and power sectors can reduce overall system costs to consumers. This work will also explore the business models required to deliver an integrated flexible system.

It builds on influential Carbon Trust reports from 2016 (see Notes to Editors), which identified that the cost of a future energy system in Great Britain could be reduced by £40 billion with greater flexibility and the implementation of storage.

The project’s findings will be published in early 2021 and are expected to inform energy system stakeholders and policy makers’ work on net zero commitments, heat decarbonisation pathways and the rapid transition to low emission transport options. 

The consortium represents a broad range of organisations across the energy system including: Bryt Energy, EDF Energy, the Greater London Authority, the Institution of Gas Engineers & Managers, SBM Offshore, Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks, SP Energy Networks, Statera Energy, UK Power Networks, and Western Power Distribution.

The consortium will engage with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Ofgem, the Committee on Climate Change, the National Infrastructure Commission and National Grid ESO throughout the project. Imperial College London will lead on advanced energy systems modelling. 

Andrew Lever, Director at the Carbon Trust commented: 

“Significant action and investment are required to transition our energy system to help achieve net zero emissions for the UK economy by 2050. As the focus moves towards the decarbonisation of heat and transport sectors, it is essential that new sources of flexibility are explored to ensure the shift to net zero is achieved at lowest cost. 

“This update to our previous work aims to create a robust evidence base that energy system stakeholders and policy makers can use to plan and invest confidently and efficiently. We are delighted that it is being supported by such a large number of organisations across the energy sector and beyond.” 


Notes to editors

This analysis builds on the following work:

Energy Storage Report - Can Storage Help Reduce The Cost Of A Future UK Electricity System 

An analysis of electricity system flexibility for Great Britain

Press office contact details

For further information, please contact the Carbon Trust press office on 020 7170 7050 or

About the Carbon Trust

Established in 2001, the Carbon Trust works with businesses, governments and institutions around the world, helping them contribute to, and benefit from, a more sustainable future through carbon reduction, resource efficiency strategies, and commercialising low carbon businesses, systems and technologies.

The Carbon Trust:

  • works with corporates and governments, helping them to align their strategies with climate science and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement
  • provides expert advice and assurance, giving investors and financial institutions the confidence that green finance will have genuinely green outcomes
  • supports the development of low carbon technologies and solutions, building the foundations for the energy system of the future.

Headquartered in London, the Carbon Trust has a global team of 200 staff, representing over 30 nationalities based across five continents.

Related links

Future energy systems

Webinar series: Flexible energy systems in the UK