The National Grid: who are they and what do they do?

The national grid

The National Grid is a network of electricity wires that supply gas and electricity across Britain. The energy passes through several companies before it finally arrives at our homes and businesses. However, the National Grid is sometimes confused with the regional distribution companies. In fact it’s not just the National Grid who distribute energy. There are four types of company involved in supplying gas and electricity into your home. 

  1. The National Grid Group manage the operations – making sure there is enough gas and electricity in every region.
  2. The Transmission companies own the National Grid network – transporting energy at high voltages and long distances. 
  3. The Distribution companies connect the National Grid to individual properties – transporting energy at low voltages and short distances. 
  4. Energy suppliers buy wholesale energy and charge customers for energy usage.

What is the National Grid?

There are two important things to know about the National Power Grid. Firstly, the National Grid is owned and maintained by regional transmission companies. Secondly, the company called the National Grid Group, own a couple of regional transmission companies, in addition to managing the Power Grid transmission system. The National Grid Group has the important job of making sure that the electricity supply meets the needs of households. 

What area does the national grid cover?

The Power Grid covers England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man. The Power Grid also covers the Isle of Wight in England. In addition to some of the Scottish islands such as Orkney, Skye and the Western Isles. The grid does not reach Northern Ireland or Ireland.

Transmission companies

Transmission companies manage the high voltage electricity wires that stretch across Britain. These companies are responsible for distributing large volumes of energy to the regional distribution companies.

Who are the transmission companies?

The National Grid Group and Scottish Power own the four transmission companies.

National Grid gas transmission companies

The National Grid group are the only gas transmission company for Britain.  

National Grid electricity transmission companies

national grid transmission companies

There are three electricity transmission companies operating in Britain, these are:

  • National Grid
  • Scottish & Southern electricity Networks
  • SP Energy Networks

Distribution companies

Similarly to transmission companies it depends on where you live as to which company distributes your energy. These companies own the distribution network that connects households to the Power Grid. 

Distribution companies charge suppliers for using the network. Suppliers then pass this cost on to consumers through the standing charge on your energy bills. Because there are different distribution companies in each region, energy costs can vary depending on location. It also means that the price cap is different depending on the region you live in.

Ofgem’s role in energy supply and distribution is to make sure the market is fair for consumers because there is no competition to keep the costs low. The energy regulator can limit the amount transmission and distribution companies charge. This is important because without competition the companies would have no reason to keep the costs low. Ofgem also set targets for reliability, customer service and environmental performance so that consumers have a consistent energy experience.

Who are the distribution companies?

There are ten distribution companies that manage the gas and electricity supply going straight into our homes. 

National Grid Gas distribution companies

national grid gas distribution

  • Cadent Gas Ltd – West Midlands, North West, East of England and North London
  • Northern Gas Networks Limited – North East England (including Yorkshire and Northern Cumbria)
  • Wales & West Utilities Limited – Wales and South West England.
  • SGN – Scotland and Southern England (including South London).

National Grid Electricity distribution companies

national grid electricity distribution

  • Electricity North West Limited
  • Northern Powergrid
  • Scottish and Southern Energy
  • ScottishPower Energy Networks
  • UK Power Networks
  • Western Power Distribution

In conclusion the National Power Grid can be confusing with all these companies. Although we often only have direct contact with our energy suppliers. Unless we’re experiencing a power cut, then we’ll need to contact our local distribution company. You can find out what to do in a power cut in this guide. Distribution companies can also have a big impact on the cost of your energy bills. You can pay more for your gas and electricity just because of where you live. To reduce the cost of your energy bills you don’t have to move region though. Just by being on a good energy deal you can save a packet.

When did you switch energy supplier last? There are four ways to switch energy supplier, however if you don’t have the time or interest then find out how we switch you to the best energy deals each year, all for free!