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

The national grid

National Grid is the system operator for energy in the Great Britain, delivering gas and electricity to customers nationwide. Here’s how it operates.

National Grid is a network that supplies gas and electricity across Britain.

The energy passes through several companies before it finally arrives at our homes and businesses. So if you do an energy comparison, you’re actually comparing tariffs from a range of energy suppliers ultimately serviced by the National Grid.

So it’s not just the National Grid which distributes energy. There are four types of company involved in supplying gas and electricity into your home:

  1. The National Grid Group manages operations, making sure there’s enough gas and electricity in every region.
  2. The transmission companies run 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.

Who do I pay for my energy?

While you pay your energy supplier(s) for your gas and electricity, the price is made up of numerous factors, including network and operating costs. Find out what contributes to your energy bill.

If you think you’re paying too much, you could look into switching tariff, or cut down on usage with our energy saving tips.

If you’re struggling with your bills or getting into energy debt, here’s the help available with your energy bills – including hardship funds. Also, for a further helping hand, check if you’re eligible for the Warm Home DiscountWinter Fuel Payments or Cold Weather Payments.

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What is the National Grid?

There are two important things to know about the National Grid. Firstly, the it’s owned and maintained by regional transmission companies. Secondly, the company called the National Grid Group owns 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 National 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?

There are four transmission companies, which are owned by National Grid Group and Scottish Power.

The National Grid Group is the only gas transmission company for Britain.  

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

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

national grid transmission companies

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.

However, the Ofgem energy price cap means that – regardless of where you live in Britain – there’s a maximum price you should be paying per kilowatt hour (kWH) of energy.

Ofgem’s role in energy supply and distribution is to make sure the market is fair for consumers.

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

What this means for you

With lots of companies operating, the national power grid can be confusing. Not least because we often only have direct contact with our energy suppliers.

That is, unless you experience a power cut. Then you need to contact your local distribution company. Find out what to do in a power cut.

It’s also worth looking into which potential money saving schemes your supplier has signed up to. For example, National Grid runs a Demand Flexibility Service, for which you could earn money back for cutting back on usage at peak times on certain days. Why not look into this to see if you can offset your energy costs?