Helping to create a decarbonised energy system at minimal cost to consumers

Marzia Zafar, Deputy Director of Digitalization and Innovation

Marzia Zafar

Deputy Director of Digitalization and Innovation

Publication date

Industry sector

  • Distribution Network
  • Transmission Network

Marzia Zafar, Deputy Director of Digitalization and Innovation at Ofgem, on how the regulator is empowering innovators through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF).

Great Britain is a nation famed for its innovators. From Jethro Tull, George Stephenson and Ada Lovelace to more recent names such as James Dyson, Tim Berners Lee and Emily Cummins, innovation is written deep into Great Britain’s DNA. Great British Innovation has led to some of the greatest transformations in history such as the Agricultural, Industrial, and more recently Digital revolutions. 

We need this innovative spirit more than ever if we are to meet our ambition for clean energy. The Government has set a target for Britain’s energy network to operate with 100% clean power by 2035.

In the past few decades, the energy system has already begun to move from its old way of thinking and doing to adopting new technologies like smart meters and new arrangements to create flexibility in the energy system. That’s not nearly enough. That’s just scratching the surface. We need longer duration energy storage. We need seasonal storage. We need green hydrogen. We need households to have smart devices that automatically flex when the system sends signals. We need nuclear, CCUS (Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage), Off-shore wind, on-shore wind and digital solutions that can use machine learning to run the energy system efficiently and visibly. We need innovation across the board. This is why today we’ve announced ten projects – which have already cleared feasibility and proof of concept phases – to get through to the final stage of the first SIF (Strategic Innovation Fund) round. Chosen projects will each receive a share of a £95.3 million funding package, to take their ideas to the next level. 

We’ve selected some incredibly exciting projects to take forward including allocating over £49.1 million for hydrogen related projects which will look at how this emerging renewable clean fuel source could be used on our existing gas network.  

Other projects we’re funding include a project led by the ESO (Electricity System Operator) which will look at how energy use flexibility, can be scaled up to deliver benefits to both consumers and the electricity network. This is a vital technology in the future energy system where we will increasingly use more intermittent energy sources such wind and solar power. 

Together with our partners at Innovate UK we’ll be regularly checking in with each of these projects to ensure they are making the best use of the funds we have allocated them. We will also be ensuring that for when they’re ready, viable projects can be rapidly rolled out for real time use on the networks, so consumers can start benefitting from them. 

And with several years left to run of SIF, there’s still time for budding innovators with great ideas for energy to come forward and apply for funding.  

Find out more about the Strategic Innovation Fund.