The world has been getting smarter rapidly, but it feels like the energy sector is only just starting out on its journey. It feels normal to have real-time information on when the next bus is coming or when my taxi will arrive. Or that my video streaming service knows what I might like to watch next.
However, our knowledge of the energy system is often patchy, not yet digitalised and far from being real-time. For example, the network operators who own and maintain the wires that transport our power don’t have a clear picture of what microgeneration technologies, batteries and electric vehicles are connected to their low voltage networks.
But this is all changing, and fast. The Energy Data Taskforce produced a strategy for a Modern Digitalised Energy System, which has led to the creation of the government-led Modernising Energy Data programme to deliver the recommendations made by the Taskforce. This is catalysing change from modifying the requirements of regulated energy industries through to competitions to stimulate innovation.
Data can be seen as a dry subject, but what you can do with it is exciting. This is why I was keen to work with UK Research and Innovation and Energy Systems Catapult over the last two months to explore the potential for energy data to help us meet the net zero challenge in our local areas.
I got to engage with nearly 200 stakeholders, with an interest in their local energy system, to find out what problems they are facing that energy data could help solve. Through this process, we came up with hundreds of ideas. Here are a few examples:
The purpose of this exercise was to help stimulate innovation to provide real-world solutions to the challenges we are facing. UK Research and Innovation has launched a competition to support exactly that with up to £150k for a feasibility study in the first phase. You can find out more about the competition here.
The energy sector may be further behind on its smart journey, but the potential is huge. Energy is fundamental to all areas of our lives. Plus, we have the enormous challenge of making it zero carbon within just 30 years. Data is going to play an essential role in this transition.