What's the plan for energy data in the NEM

On Monday the 24th of February the Independent Chair of the Energy Security Board (ESB) Dr. Kerry Schott released the annual report on The Health of the National Electricity Market. Lost in the report or any subsequent media reporting of the enormous transitions occurring in the NEM, was any mention of new energy data models or how critical these will be to the future operation, fairness and effectiveness of the NEM.

Schott’s report outlines the profound and well documented changes and technical challenges occurring as our national grid and markets try to ingest and manage the huge increase in Distributed Energy Resources (DER) in our networks. Schott’s report was particularly damning of the lack of leadership and good governance in the energy transition space, rating it as “moderate” and saying: “risk of poor governance requires a continuing commitment by all parties to a coherent and coordinated approach to policy and its implementation. Ad-hoc policy driven by government anxiety about affordability, reliability, security or emissions reduction must have regard to the broader impact. A smooth orderly transition becomes difficult without measured consideration and coordination across the NEM.”
No better example of the ad-hoc, slow and siloed approach undermining “a coherent and coordinated approach” is the reform of how energy data is to be managed in a post 2025 NEM.

All agencies and industry have recognised the critical importance a future fit energy data framework is to the delivery of a decarbonised and resilient NEM. In its Interim Report on Required Capabilities the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and peak industry body the Energy Networks Association (ENA) found that:  “It is critical to develop systems that are capable of checks and controls, real-time data collection and communication. All future scenarios indicate the involvement of third parties in a variety of roles interacting with the grid in real time, responding to price signals or operational incentives. This functionality requires real time access to monitoring data, giving rise to the requirement for a cheap, reliable and open data, monitoring and communications platform.”  In 2017 the Productivity Commission found in its Data Availability & Use paper that there is: “Extraordinary growth in data generation and usability has enabled a kaleidoscope of new business models, products and insights. Data frameworks and protections developed prior to sweeping digitisation need reform. This is a global phenomenon and Australia, to its detriment, is not yet participating.”  The PC also recommended a new Data Sharing and Release Act, and a National Data Custodian which have not occurred to this point.

You would think that an energy data strategy would be one of, if not the first, component informing a redesigned NEM. Sadly, that is not the case – but it wasn’t meant to be like this. In the 2017 Blueprint for the Future review delivered by Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel some strong recommendations were made regarding energy data. The Finkel review recommended that by the end of 2017 the ESB in collaboration with the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), should develop a data strategy for the NEM that:

• Is developed in consultation with industry bodies and consumer bodies and be consistent with open government data principles.

• Require the ESB to report to the COAG Energy Council on the completion of the first stage. This should include costs for design and implementation for initial set up, plus indicative costs for ongoing maintenance of the key deliverables under the data strategy.

• The first phase of the data strategy must be completed by end-2017, with the functionality of the components of the strategy reviewed annually to ensure that they continue to be fit-for-purpose.

Whilst the body of the 2019 ESB update on the health of the NEM makes no mention of energy data reform, buried in an appendix outlining “Finkel Review Progress” is a table that states Stage 1 of Energy Data Strategy Stage is complete and Stage 2 is in progress, this is despite Finkel recommending this work be completed by end-2107. The ESB released a consultation paper on data strategy in the NEM in early 2018 and received very few responses.

Interestingly, the ESB’s 2018 update on the health of the NEM reports that the development of the data strategy has been “paused” to accommodate other related data initiatives currently under development, for example:

  • The COAG EC-led process to facilitate access to consumer energy data
  • Treasury-led process to establish an economy-wide Consumer Data Right starting in banking, telco and energy sectors
  • The Government’s response to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into Data Availability and Use, including the creation of the National Data Commissioner and the National Data Advisory Council.
  • The Cyber Security Industry Working Group which has been established to develop a framework to assess cyber security resilience and maturity of energy market participants, with the first report due by end 2018.

So, the process is paused to “accommodate other related initiatives”. It’s reasonable that a strategy process is iterative, but its deeply concerning that Australia is this far through a reform process without the guidance of a coherent energy data reform strategy to guide the process.

To build the picture of how messy this has gotten I’ll list the other initiatives in the energy data space currently underway:

• Department of the Environment and Energy, CSIRO, AEMO Energy Use Data Model (EUDM)
The pilot EUDM is a repository of data on the way people and businesses use energy and aims to enable better energy market management and infrastructure planning, and support effective policy reform and research.

• Australian Renewal Energy Mapping Infrastructure (AREMI)
AREMI consolidates open geospatial data from a range of sources, to better inform energy supply and infrastructure investment decisions.

• COAG Energy Council, AEMO Register of distributed energy resources (DER)
In 2017, COAG EC submitted a rule change request to AEMC seeking to place an obligation on AEMO to establish a register of DER and collect information from distribution network service providers.

• Developments by other institutions
There are also a multitude of initiatives being progressed by State governments and industry organisations in addition to those led by the energy market institutions and the Commonwealth. This includes the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) led development of an ‘Energy Data Hub’.

The great opportunity of energy data is that with available advancements in data science, analysis and technical capacity, new services and markets can be made available to customers providing choice, and increased return on investment for capital expenditure on rooftop PV and batteries. The possibility of data frameworks providing real time control of DER, behind the meter devices and demand response is enormous. However, Australia risks losing this great opportunity as neither the ACCC’s position paper on Data Access Models for Energy Data, AEMO’s Integrated System Plan or the ESB’s DER Integration Work Plan make mention of real time control of DER or BTM devices.

All eyes will be on the 2020: AEMO Renewable Integration Strategy (RIS) due March 2020 to provide clarity and coalesce the disparate research, regulatory and technical efforts currently at work into a cohesive strategy. Considering the importance of data and its management it’s concerning this data strategy work has not been completed and guided the reform process.

Jeremy Buckingham

Contact Jeremy to continue the discussion


+61 2 9037 2605

Jeremy Buckingham

Contact Jeremy to continue the discussion


+61 2 9037 2605

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