The UK energy regulator, Ofgem, has announced updates to its Data Best Practice and Digitalisation Strategy and Action Plan guidance. These updates represent an essential step – ensuring everyone uses the right pipes to enable data to flow across the UK’s energy system.
That means energy sector participants, organisations working in the energy sector, and innovators are able to access network data. They can use this to create transformative market solutions that optimise the energy system for the consumer.
The scale of transformation needed is enormous. A move from an energy system that manages thousands of energy assets to one harnessing millions of low-carbon assets like solar panels, batteries, heat pumps and electric vehicles is significant. Not to mention the hundreds of millions of data points they will create in real-time.
That is like moving from the first mobile phone call (1973) to the first iPhone (2007), but quicker.
What decisions have Ofgem made?
Ofgem’s updates put interoperability at the heart of energy sector data, a key recommendation of 2021’s Energy Digitalisation Taskforce.
Mandating common standards across the energy system will make energy data more reliable, secure, discoverable, interoperable, and usable. More importantly, they give developments in digital infrastructure like digital spine, digital twins, and flexibility markets; a common foundation.
Ofgem has made five main updates:
- Metadata – Ofgem is now mandating Dublin Core as the metadata standard for industry.
If you deal with data, metadata is important because it describes that data. Then, if you want to use that data across the energy system, you need a widely recognised and accepted format for that metadata.
Mandating Dublin Core, a well-established standard used across many sectors, is sensible. A sector-agnostic standard makes cross-sector data interoperability easier, which is becoming increasingly important (for instance, with the development of Smart Data).
- Data licenses – Ofgem has decided to require the use of both Creative Commons and Open Government Attribution Licences.
Effective data sharing needs simple, common and effective agreements setting out how data can be shared, distributed and re-used.
Ofgem has made the sensible approach of mandating already well-established, interoperable standards. They enable users from inside and outside the energy sector to understand their rights when using this data.
- Discoverability – Ofgem has asked for a final industry proposal for standardised data catalogues and set a firm deadline for data to be published against that proposal.
Finding data is unnecessarily difficult. Publishing a catalogue which uses metadata to provide a contextual inventory would enable others to easily access and search for available data.
Ofgem’s believes the energy system is losing significant benefits from energy network data being too difficult to find. Changing that will open an enormous space for learning, new solutions and improvements.
- Aggregated smart meter data – Ofgem has decided that aggregated smart meter consumption data should be treated as Energy System Data. Companies must publish data that is interoperable, safe and in-line with physical and cyber security.
As part of this, industry needs to agree a methodology to ensure minimised risks de-anonymisation, whilst maximising the utility of the data.
Safe, accessible aggregated smart meter data would offer three main network benefits: greater innovation, improved network planning, and better localised demand modelling. But there are also wider benefits including more innovative commercial propositions and research.
- Flexibility market data – Ofgem has decided that data assets associated with flexibility markets should be presumed open data and published.
Opening and unlocking energy flexibility markets is a current government challenge. More transparency will enable a better functioning market and improve visibility between the Electricity System Operator (ESO), Transmission Operators, and DNOs.
Ofgem has set industry a timetable and committed to workshops to ensure successful implementation:
- 28 February 2024
Publication of aggregated smart meter consumption data by DNOs/
- 1 April 2024
Finalised industry proposal for standardised data catalogues
- 7 August 2024
Dublin Core deployed as the energy system’s metadata standard
Creative Commons/Open Government Licences deployed
- 31 December 2024
Industry data catalogues published and in operation.
Overall, Ofgem has provided clarity and direction, and signposted its vision for the future of data-driven energy without crowding out joint regulator and industry engagement needed to establish the details.
But, as the Retail Energy Code Company has highlighted, more focus is needed on how energy data can have a direct beneficial impact on end consumers.
Extra credit should go to Ofgem for recognising the need to lead by example and improve its own data practices. Embracing change across the regulator, and not just within digital teams, will take development and practice but could show a fully connected digital energy system.