Ofgem’s consultation on its Data Best Practice and Digitalisation Strategy and Action Plan guidance has just closed.
It sets out emerging plans for regulatory requirements that will change how energy network companies deal with data.
Here are six reflections from Icebreaker One on Ofgem’s plans:
- We fully support Ofgem in their drive to improve data and digitalisation in the energy sector.
We need systemic change in the way the energy sector deals with data. Right now, data is too hard to access, and often feels too risky to share. It costs too much money to negotiate individual agreements to share data, and this puts barriers in the way of small or innovative businesses to have equal access to data. This also puts enormous barriers in the way of the UK planning for the renewable energy infrastructure we need, like electric vehicle charging points. Changing this system will make it easier for innovation to thrive in the energy market, and enable the UK to implement the technology it needs to hit net zero.
- The Open Energy initiative will operationalise Ofgem’s ambitions.
Open Energy is an initiative that brings industry together to understand their data needs (business, legal, technical, policy) and delivers operational services that make it easy to search, access and securely share energy data. It gives access to energy data held by thousands of individual organisations and institutions. It has received support from Ofgem and the UK Government, and is currently in beta.
It provides a search engine which makes it simple to find both Open Data, that’s already openly available, and Shared Data, that can’t be published openly for legal, privacy, commercial or security reasons. For Open Data, the service links people directly to the source data without any need for registration. For Shared Data, it provides a governance service, which makes it efficient and secure to access and share this data. It covers legal contracts and security authentication so data is only accessed by the right organisations under pre-agreed policy and rules, using automation to simplify and scale the process. It’s built to financial-grade security standards to ensure that companies are in charge of their data and who can use it. The purpose of these two services, combined, is to make it easy to find, access and use all kinds of data, regardless of how they are licensed.
- We propose that transformation needs accountability to reduce implementation risks.
There are many barriers to digitalisation. Ofgem will need to find the most effective way to motivate energy organisations to adapt. These incentives could be stronger than those currently proposed in the draft guidance. Ofgem could look at other types of regulation for inspiration – like protection regulations for inspiration, where a Data Protection Officer is appointed, or financial services regulations, where Senior Managers assume formal responsibility.
- We propose data sharing requires a dispute resolution process.
Without this, Ofgem’s key principles will be difficult to enforce, and trust in the energy data ecosystem could erode, or slow down, at a time when Ofgem is trying to build it. Proper dispute resolution processes build trust. This is especially important at a point when the energy ecosystem is becoming more complex than ever, with a range of new and old organisations working within it. We believe that now is the time to lay the foundation stones for the processes that will help industry scale to meet our societal needs.
- We strongly support Ofgem’s position to enshrine interoperability as a principle.
It is essential that both systems and processes work together, and the energy ecosystem isn’t there yet: heavy use of bespoke, individually-negotiated data licenses means inadvertent restrictions are put in place about what can be done with that data.
To deliver an open marketplace for energy data will require cohesion and interoperability across both business rules and technology. It requires trust, and trust builds when we collaborate on the basis of agreed, consistent policy and rules. Based on our industry consultations, including Advisory Groups spanning the sector, Open Energy is delivering a governance service that has interoperability at its heart. This gives control to Data Providers and ensures data is only accessed by the right organisations under pre-agreed policy and rules, using automation to radically simplify and scale the process.
- Given the UK is on an urgent deadline to meet the net zero commitments enshrined in the Paris Agreement, we strongly encourage rapid delivery of Ofgem’s data plans.
Better access to data is mission critical to plan and scale clean energy technology. This guidance would benefit from firm interim milestones to make sure that regulated organisations achieve the ultimate deadlines that Ofgem will set them.