The Energy Digitalisation Taskforce
The Energy Digitalisation Taskforce (EDiT for short) was formed last Spring and run by Energy Systems Catapult and stakeholders include the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ofgem and Innovate UK.
Its remit was to research, understand and make recommendations to promote the digitalisation, technology and related governance needed to evolve the UK’s energy systems in order to achieve Net Zero.
It concluded its work in December and presented its recommendations in January.
Delivering a digitalised energy system
EDiT’s findings are contained in its report, Delivering a digitalised energy system. The focus of the report is on achieving decarbonisation whilst empowering consumers, without compromising system stability or resilience.
The report outlines a vision for a flexible, decentralised energy system, easily accessible by new entrants and capable of accommodating a wide variety of customer options. Underlying this is an assumption that power will come from a mix of small, medium and large generation assets, with the system being managed in an agile, highly automated, data-led manner.
This vision relies on extensive digitalisation, some of the benefits of which are highlighted in the report. For the customer, these include enhanced visibility and choice; and at a system level they flow from the availability of better and more precise tools for system balancing and management.
Recommendations for a digitalised Net Zero energy system
In the report, EDiT makes 6 high-level recommendations, which are summarised below.
- Unlock value of customer actions and assets
This recommendation focuses on the steps required to build and maintain consumer trust and allow customer choice and interaction. Short-to-medium term suggestions include requiring new assets to have interactive capability and steps around the protection and use of consumer data. The overarching strategic goal is to work toward the wholesale adoption of data-led solutions.
- Deliver interoperability
The main force of this recommendation is to remove barriers to integration with and between systems (such as telecoms, gas) and organisations (service providers etc). The report makes the case for a set of standards and protocols (based on open source technology and open licences), which it anticipates will increase innovation and competition.
- Implement new digital governance approach and entities
The report recognises that we “are at the beginning of a digital journey” and, as such, it will be important to develop a governance framework capable of evolving with technology and business models as they develop. Recommendations include establishing an incubator for “public interest digital assets” and the establishment of governance principles for such assets, based around transparency, oversight and responsiveness to market developments.
- Adopt digital security measures
Widescale digitisation in the energy sector inevitably introduces new risks. The report suggests that lessons can be learned from large tech companies, which offer “bug bounty” schemes – rewarding those that identify vulnerabilities, as well as safety-critical industries which have a culture of scrutinising and learning from mistakes. Openness and data sharing are seen as central to building a “just culture” which will allow the early identification of issues in order to prevent their development into risks.
- Enable carbon monitoring and accounting
The focus of this recommendation is on implementing a standardised approach to measuring, recording, sharing and reporting on carbon emissions. The report paints this as a necessary first step toward the UK becoming a world leader in carbon monitoring, data capture, and accounting.
- Embed a digitalisation culture
The authors argue that digitalisation is not sufficiently valued or understood in the energy sector. To start to change the culture, the report suggests the appointment of a Chief Data Officer by BEIS, alongside various steps aimed at embedding the relevant skills and experiences within the leadership and thinking of sector organisations.
As is to be expected, given their focus and remit, the overarching message that comes through in the report is that extensive, ongoing digitalisation of the energy system is crucial to the achievement of Net Zero and that steps need to be taken now in order to achieve this goal and maintain a stable, fit-for-purpose network.
The proposed means to achieving this focus heavily on standardisation of systems, protocols and standards, open access to data and tools and the promotion and development of a culture of transparency. The report’s authors posit that the energy sector is “behind the development and deployment curve” in terms of digitisation and technological innovation, but present this as an opportunity to build on and benefit from the experiences and learnings from other sector’s digitalisation journeys, thus reducing risk and uncertainty.
The full report can be downloaded from the Energy Systems Catapult here.
We are at the beginning of a digital journey. An agile, iterative approach to regulation and governance will be required.