What and where’s the plan for energy data in the NEM?

On Monday the 24th the Independent Chair of the Energy Security Board (ESB) Dr. Kerry Schott released its 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 industries have recognised the critical importance of a future-fit energy data framework 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 developing 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 end-2018 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 is 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 the end of 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 the Energy Data Strategy Stage is complete and Stage 2 is in progress, this is despite Finkel recommending this work be completed by end-2108. 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, COAG EC-led process to facilitate access to consumer energy data; the 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. Further, a Cyber Security Industry Working Group 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 it’s 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.

  • Productivity Commission, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C)

The Productivity Commission’s final report on its inquiry into Data Availability and Use was tabled in parliament and published in May 2017. A task force was established within PM&C to advise the Government on its response to the recommendations made in the report.

  • Treasury, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) legislated Consumer Data Right (CDR).

The CDR will give customers a right to direct that their data be shared with others they trust. The CDR could eventually be an economy-wide right, though its initial implementation will be in the banking, energy and telecommunications sectors. The ACCC is proposing and designing an ‘AEMO Gateway model’ for the management of data in the NEM.

  • 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 is 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 the 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 nor the ESB’s DER Integration Work Plan make mention of real-time control of DER or BTM devices.   

All eyes will be on 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.

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