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Centre for Digital Built Britain

 

Following the release of the Energy Data Taskforce report recommending a strategy for the digitalisation of the energy sector, Laura Sandys, Chair of the Taskforce, looks forward to change.

Digitalisation is informing all sectors of our economy and the UK energy system has much to gain from transformation. The Energy Data Taskforcewas established six months ago to provide Government, Ofgem and industry with a set of recommendations on how data can help to unlock opportunities provided by a modern, decarbonised and decentralised Energy System at the best value to consumers. Securing change requires an overall strategy to ensure regulation, policy and business practice align to start the journey towards digitalisation of the sector. 

Our report ‘A Strategy for a Modern Digitalised Energy System’, published earlier this month, makes a number of recommendations to drive the UK towards a net zero carbon future through an integrated data and digital sector strategy. The recommendations support a strategy for the modernisation of our energy system by digitalising a currently analogue system and maximising the value of data through openness.

Data has the potential to transform how we generate and use energy, but the sector faces a unique set of challenges which have hindered progress towards a more digitalised, data-rich system: a culture of risk aversion has dissuaded collaborative, data-driven solutions, while a skills gap – where it is hard to get the right combination of data, energy and engineering talent – needs to be filled. The sector has not historically been incentivised to gather data, particularly about infrastructure; the data it has is poor and valuable data is often missing or hard to find.

The Strategy addresses these challenges by focusing on two key principles that will enable change: filling in the data gaps through requiring new and better-quality data; and maximising its value by embedding the presumption that data is open. In this highly-regulated sector, changing regulation can contribute to making digitalisation ‘business as usual’ todrive different outcomes. 

The report’s wide range of measures, from regulation to policy changes, resonate with the National Infrastructure Commission’s ‘Data for the public good’ report, making infrastructure data securely shareable between relevant stakeholders. Mark Enzer, who leads the Centre for Digital Built Britain’s Digital Framework Task Group (DFTG), is on the steering committee of the Taskforce and we have worked very closely to ensure our recommendations deliver a future-fit framework for digitalisation. Three building blocks to start unlocking the value of data have been identified: compiling a catalogue of all existing data in the energy sector; maintaining a registration of assets as they come on to the system; and creating a digital system map of the energy system. Combined, these will provide the first steps towards a digital twin for the UK energy sector.

Decarbonisation is driving a different physical model for the energy system and we need to optimise our energy system rather than just consume. This new model, where multi-utility players are shaping different systems and services and unlocking new technologies, is more complex, interoperable and multi-layered. How do we deliver that without the energy system falling apart? Information needs to flow to inform delivery of this more complex and optimised system. Digitalisation will unlock the value.

Realising the benefits of sector change will take time. That said, the Taskforce has worked closely with all organisations within the sector and there is recognition that data is an important resource that needs to be cultivated and developed if it is going to deliver the full suite of benefits the future Energy System needs. Government, Ofgem and Innovate UK are supportive of the principles of the report and are evaluating implementation of the recommendations.

From a consumer’s perspective, the transformation of the Energy System will almost certainly cost less and offer better products if we embrace data driven technologies that enable superior price discovery, drive efficiency and create productivity gains.

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