Graham Campbell, Chair of Energy Network Association’s Data and Digitalisation Steering Group and Head of Whole System and Commercial at SP Energy Networks, offers an overview of the Steering Group and its priorities for the year ahead.
I’ve always been interested in data and how we can use it to work smarter and more efficiently, and firmly believe that data and digitalisation will be crucial to reaching the UK's ambitious world-leading climate change target.
I’ve been at SP Energy Networks for almost two decades – my entire working life – and I’ve loved the opportunity to get my teeth into a variety of different roles, predominantly at the operations end of the business but I’ve always used data to inform and improve the way that I work. For the past two years I’ve been Head of Whole System and Commercial, leading the transition to the smart flexible network of the future by realising SP Energy Networks ambition of becoming a Distribution System Operator (DSO).
As well as my day-to-day role I try to support and influence wider industry – I sit on a range of working groups and am also Chair of Energy Networks Association’s (ENA) Data and Digitalisation Steering Group (DDSG). I enjoy getting involved, not just in promoting the innovation around data and digitalisation that SPEN is doing but also in trying to influence government policy and working with Ofgem, BEIS and Innovate UK to help guide the direction of travel we’re going in.
For us at SP Energy Networks, becoming a DSO means that we need to continue what we do already as a DNO, but better; and taking on new responsibilities and activities to enable the faster uptake of low carbon technologies. We need a smart and flexible energy system to harness energy from low carbon sources and this means technologies will need to be smarter, sharing information with one another.
This is why ENA’s DDSG is so important, it’s enabling the networks to respond collaboratively to the challenges of delivering a modern digitalised energy system, and it’s brilliant to see this is reflected by Government with the recent launch of the new Energy Digitalisation Taskforce (EDiT).
ENA’s Data and Digitalisation Steering Group
ENA’s DDSG was formed off the back of Government’s Energy Data Taskforce (EDiT’s predecessor) to ensure that gas and electricity network companies at the forefront of Net Zero were thinking differently on data and digitalisation, to realise the opportunities that existed and the significant consumer benefit.
As an industry our priority has been on quality of supply, customer service and an uncompromising watch on safety. Networks have access to a lot of data in relation to these areas, which is used to adapt business practices and ultimately benefit customers. However, as we look to a low-carbon economy the data that we need to reach Net Zero at the pace we’re working to isn’t available.
So, the gas and electricity networks are deploying digital solutions to ensure we can achieve not only our wider decarbonisation goals, but ensure we continue and improve the level of service for our customers. Digitalisation means there is a huge opportunity to do things differently and push boundaries on how to be smarter. Using data to evidence decision making makes the networks more accurate and the Steering Group is an example of this work in practice.
We are currently developing two key products, which are the foundations for other innovative projects that will drive us towards Net Zero, and a brilliant demonstration of how networks are working collaboratively to bring together different data sources:
The National Energy System Map (NESM), is a ground-breaking proof-of-concept project that uses the power of data to support a more efficient pathway to Net Zero. Britain’s electricity and gas network operators have joined together – through ENA – to work with Ordnance Survey (OS) and 1Spatial to build an in-depth digital system map of the UK’s energy system. From this concept ENA is developing a full National Energy System Map which will include network assets, generators, and energy intensive users, with a soft launch this summer and coming into implementation at the Energy Networks Innovation Conference (ENIC) in October.
The Energy Data Request Service, delivered by our Data Triage subgroup, is a centralised data request form which will sit on ENA’s website to facilitate data requests. This service is being developed because inaccessibility to data in the energy sector has caused friction across the networks, stalling system management improvement and inhibiting data driven decision making. The idea behind it is to have a level playing field for everyone to access data, safely and securely. A playbook to guide networks through responding to data requests which align to a ‘Presumed Open Data’ methodology is also being developed and both will be rolled out this summer.
Two other areas that sit within the group is Coordination – working with all networks to understand key data and digtalisation priorities to create a collaborative programme of work for the next 12 months, and a Common Information Model (CIM) - facilitating the standard adoption of a CIM across the networks, allowing for more efficient and effective exchange of data.
The impact of Covid-19 this past year has seen all our project activity heading online. The pandemic has meant that all but two of our meetings have been held virtually. However, from crisis comes innovation, and I think this has helped us focus on the key priorities, use our time and resources more efficiently and even accelerated our work in some areas in supporting the outcomes the industry is looking for. We are embracing the (not so) new ways of working and the DDSG’s intention is to practice what we preach by continuing to collaborate virtually on the most part.
We continue to improve our monitoring and data analysis capabilities to help grow our knowledge and use of our assets, and look forward to the publication of the UK’s first Energy Digitalisation Strategy, which will be published by jointly by government and Ofgem this spring.
Notes to editors
A version of this article originally appeared on Utility Week.
About Energy Networks Association
Energy Networks Association (ENA) is the industry body representing the companies which operate the electricity wires, gas pipes and energy system in the UK and Ireland.
ENA helps its members meet the challenge of delivering electricity and gas to communities across the UK and Ireland safely, sustainably and reliably.
Its members include every major electricity and gas network operator in the UK and Ireland, independent operators, National Grid ESO which operates the electricity system in Great Britain and National Grid Gas which operates the gas system in Great Britain. Its affiliate membership also includes companies with an interest in energy, including Heathrow Airport and Network Rail.
What are energy network operators?
Energy network operators manage and maintain the wires, pipes and other infrastructure which delivers electricity and gas to your home, business and community. They are private companies which are regulated by Ofgem and employ around 45,000 people in the UK and Ireland. They are represented by their industry body, Energy Networks Association (that's us).
Energy supplier or network operator? Energy network operators are entirely separate to your energy supplier, which is the company that bills you for using electricity and gas. Energy suppliers and generators are represented by Energy UK.