“Data is the single biggest enabler of a decarbonised, decentralised and digitised energy future. It’s the tool that will bridge the gap between where we are now vs. where we need to be to achieve net-zero.”
Matt Hastings, Innovate UK, Modernising Energy Data Access
I am absolutely delighted to announce that Icebreaker One is one of the three winners to work on the first phase of the UKRI-funded Modernising Energy Data project — to identify where the opportunities and challenges lie with data sharing within the energy sector.
Icebreaker One works to help bridge the data-gaps that will help deliver a demonstrably net-zero future.
As a non-partisan, independent non-profit, we are completely dedicated to contributing to the development of open standards for data-sharing across the energy sector and beyond.
One thing to be crystal clear about up-front is that we use the phrase “Open Energy” to indicate that the standard is open, not that all the data should be open (ie. it’s not a free-for-all). We define shared-data here.
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How might we better manage the complex needs of energy supply and demand?
While it requires technology, data-sharing isn’t really a technology problem: we have an abundance of technologies. What we need to work out includes, but is not limited to:
- Data rights
- Liability models
- Dispute resolution and redress
- Consent & consent management
- Legal frameworks
- Technology architecture
- Operating principles
Technology architecture is only one component of the systems view needed to address data-sharing in a whole-market context. We need to work through the business models that enable value to flow. We look at value through the lenses of both the commercial sector to address risk, efficiency and profit — and through the public sector lens of how to create open-markets, enable appropriate regulation and maximise our potential to address climate change.
Our energy is no longer supplied by a small number of power plants — it used to be ‘relatively’ easy for network managers and system operators to get information about and manage the whole system.
As the number of energy sources has skyrocketed, and the number of users is increasing, we have moved to a more diverse and federated energy system. We have a growing number of energy providers (multiple micro-generators distributed across the country with multiple owners) and more users (e.g. beyond commercial and domestic, to new transport-needs such as electric cars).
The complexity of balancing our energy supply and demand is increasing and will only continue to increase.
These systems are changing the ways in which operators balance energy demand and supply. One challenge area is that (as with all infrastructures that have evolved over decades) they have not been designed from the ground-up for data-sharing in the ways that have become possible over the last decade.
The vast digital and data revolutions we are in the midst of are opening up huge opportunities to think about how we can meet our current, emerging and future needs. At the same time, there are still many questions about how to best manage this.
For example, renewables are highly dependent on weather data. We all know how unpredictable the weather is — its variability makes it hard to model both renewable power generation and customer demand. The data needed for comprehensive modelling can often be incomplete, or untimely and easier sharing could help reduce costs across the whole system.
For example, the National Grid paid out £50 million to turn the power down as lockdown hit demand. It had to pay surplus wind and solar farms to switch off and take a series of other measures to prevent blackouts. This is clearly less than ideal as we want to maximise the use of our renewable energy to reduce our emissions, but it’s also highly complex.
Getting better data to network managers and dispatchable generation operators will help them better address these kinds of collective-action challenges.
We believe that there is the scope and significant potential to explore Open Energy — to develop an open standard for data-sharing across the sector and beyond: that addresses the private-sector needs and our public-sector objectives; to both transform the energy industry and address the climate crisis via economic innovation. To accelerate decarbonisation will need more data sharing across more systems.
There is scope in implementation to enable the energy network and market stakeholders to share data robustly, legally and securely, driving the use and adoption of innovation across the sector, and address the long list of bullet points at the top of this article.
We are also acutely aware there is a lot of prior work in this sector, and many lessons learned from other sectors. We are looking to combine and build on these.
Please share this page with your colleagues if of interest.
A potential framework to build upon?
By way of comparison, in the development of Open Banking (which is now a regulated open standard that is in operation across over 95% of the banking sector), there were also many parts of the jigsaw in existence already. The development of that standard helped to bring together all the stakeholders around a common collective challenge and bind it into something that now works market-wide.
The outcome is that not only is there a common standard, but that it is shared across the whole market. This reduces the friction in data-sharing for everyone in the system, shifting from a framework of many bilateral contracts to a common framework for interoperability with robust codes of practice.
Standardising the way that data can flow across the energy sector could help build resilience, enable operators to balance energy supply and demand effectively and enable innovation.
Over the coming weeks, we want to hear from everyone who has an interest in this space.
We want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly.
At Icebreaker One we want to enable the greatest market potential for the whole system, meet the needs of our future network needs as sharing expands beyond ‘just’ the energy sector and help drive to net-zero.
Over the coming weeks we need your help to:
- Understand the current landscape of stakeholders, identifying the existing providers and new entities in the ecosystem, the challengers (e.g. electric transport, microgeneration) and the organisations or individuals that are the “change-makers” that can drive and deliver success.
- Understand what works, what doesn’t, where the blockers are, and what will it take to overcome these. We expect to find three categories of potential improvement:
- Where building better data infrastructure yields marginal improvements in the energy sector (e.g. 20%),
- Where there is scope for order-of-magnitude improvement (10x-1,000x), and
- Where there is scope for breakthrough innovation (systemic change).
3. Develop use cases that will help us drive a long-term sustainable commercial approach to address public and private sector needs
If you would like to learn more about the project, please get in touch