Lets change the world! Or the UK energy sector at least…
The UK government has been leading the world in Digital Transformation of governmental processes which extends beyond passport applications and other day-to-day tasks of government and into regulated essential services such as transport and energy. The Government Digital Service or GDS for short has spearheaded a new approach to IT&T in government – a change that was necessary given the history of failed IT&T projects running into the billions of pounds. The GDS takes an approach that fosters and encourages innovation and fresh thinking and is designed to challenge the dominance of large corporations and consultancy groups in accessing government contracts. Instead, an agile approach is taken – one that rewards innovation and eschews large, waterfall style projects.
The UK Government has recognised that free access to data underpins the modern, digital economy. The energy sector has been resistant to change over the last century+ of operation – preferring to maintain manual meter readings, archaic tariff schemes, one-way trading and day-end settlement. The result of such policies has seen the UK recognise that siloed and disparate datasets are incongruent with the task of decarbonisation and management of Distributed Energy Resources (DER). It is also incongruent with empowering consumers with data to manage and control their expenditures and empower them to generate income from flexibly providing their DER and Electric Vehicles to the energy market to use as a balancing mechanism.
Let’s delve into these three topics.
The UK Government recognises that in order to decarbonise, a shift away from natural gas resources are required. To do this, the heating load from boilers needs to become electrified. The UK Energy networks, generators and data systems are not designed to scale to these requirements, making transition away from gas impossible. To plan for transition away from gas, regulators and government need to first understand if a) the existing assets can have higher utilisation rates than present and b) if not suitable, what network augmentation and investments are required, and by whom? As it is, the influx of EV presents an incredible challenge to the existing networks as commuters shift their energy consumption from the bowser to the electrical socket. Networks require better management to improve utilisation, and to identify areas where additional investment is required.
Management of DER
Distributed Energy Resources such as solar panels, batteries, electric vehicles and air-conditioning are challenging the status quo of the one-way electrical grid – and regulators and policy makers understand the problem is growing in scale and magnitude, and that further unrestricted and unregulated proliferation of DER could imperil the stable operation of the electrical network. A paradigm shift is at play – up-to-date, supply was designed to match demand. Now we are entering a world where we need demand to match supply. To achieve this, centralised control and orchestration of DER is required, tied to wholesale prices, weather models and control algorithms. A two-way grid which acknowledges the changing role of market players – from a pure consumer of energy – to a consumer and generator of energy – is required, simply to acknowledge the current reality. Providing flat feed-in tariffs to consumers is understood by them to be a giant con – imagine the scenario where a consumer invests in batteries, discharges them during evening peak netting 4c/kWh. That same retailer could be selling their electricity to a neighbour for 35c/kWh. The market is rewarding someone that has made no investment, rather they deny those that make investments a return, despite helping to support other consumers. Consumers understand this. Typically, consumers want, but don’t know how to articulate that they want dynamic export limits coupled with dynamic feed-in-tariffs and the ability to provide other services to the electricity market should they provide value. They want a 2-way grid.
Empowering consumers with data
Data ownership has historically rested with the Distribution Network Service Provider, such as Essential Energy, Ausgrid or Endeavour energy in NSW, or Ergon, SAPN, CitiPower and others depending on your location. Upon recognising that this gave no incentive to unlock data in consumer’s interest, the NSW government moved to a policy of shifting responsibility for metering to the customer’s retailer, known as the “power of choice”, following other states and territores. In the UK, meter data has rested with the DNO (equivalent to DNSP) and then the retailer. Similar problems have resulted with fragmented data silos, inconsistent data naming conventions and no clear line of responsibility for data ownership. The UK Energy Data Taskforce’s chief mission was to eliminate these barriers and to call for a “common data architecture” to receive and normalise private and public sector energy datasets. From the common dataset, an API would be provided to application developers and energy sector innovators to provide a wide range of new products and services built on real-time and more diverse datasets. For example, instead of daily or even interval consumption data, include demand data to provide a product that rewards curtailing of peak demand.
Australia needs an energy data taskforce to consolidate efforts presently underway by ACCC, AEMO, AEMC, ESB and state and territory governments to ensure a holistic change is achieved that benefits consumers, not energy companies.
Buildings Evolved are working with CSIRO Energy as well as University College London Energy Institute on a “building to grid” data clearing house under the International Energy Agency EBC Annex 81 “data driven smart buildings”. Buildings Evolved advocate for a proliferation of orchestrated DER to address the challenges of stability and security of energy supply. Our work in energy efficiency and control algorithms translates itself perfectly to management of demand, generation and storage across the entire grid.