February 23, 2021

Energy market transformation accelerates despite the pandemic, by Chief Executive Stuart Lacey

After one of the strangest and most trying years, we are now well into 2021 both prepared for extended restrictions as we ease out of lockdown but also hopeful for the return of some semblance of normality as we patiently await our vaccinations. This time last year ElectraLink was full of hope, excitement and ambition to tackle 2020 head on and deliver world-class data and governance services for the GB energy market. COVID-19 came along and brought challenges to our personal lives and dealt a hammer blow to many industries. However, ElectraLink staff showed unwavering spirit throughout the year continuing to provide vital data services for the energy market.

Working from home is something ElectraLink staff have experienced for years now with our flexible working policies. Our main challenge in 2020 lay in keeping morale and motivation up while we were unable to share appreciation, camaraderie and support face-to-face for months on end. Our biannual staff parties complete with comedians, magicians and crafts, as well as enhanced flexible working arrangements and added flexibility to annual leave policies, went a long way to make the days more upbeat for our staff.

Despite the disruption to our lives, not all change that occurred in 2020 has been detrimental. In our role as industry experts, we have witnessed the acceleration of the energy market transition as habits change and awareness of global issues grows. The release of the government’s Energy White Paper aimed at decarbonising the energy system; the change to electric vehicle targets and policy; record prices on trading floors for stock with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) certification; rocketing funding for renewables over fossil fuel projects; and many other indicators show that the energy transformation is accelerating. We are seeing a very positive outlook for the projects and plans we are progressing with in 2021.

In 2020 we initiated the first phase of our flagship energy market transformation project, Flexr. This is a data discovery, standardisation and sharing service that integrates a Distributed Energy Resources (DER) asset register, pathfinder Distribution Network Operator (DNO) data and a portal for third parties to access triaged data from DNOs and ElectraLink’s Energy Market Data Hub (EMDH). We have identified thousands of DER assets and logged many more DNO infrastructural assets which are combined with DTS data to provide a scaled, secure, real-time data layer for service providers to create innovative flexibility products. All six of our DNO shareholders are involved in Flexr and we look forward to the next steps of this landmark project.

Also on the DNO front is Skyline, a project we are developing with Scottish and Southern Energy Networks and UK Power Networks to play a major role in forecasting, detecting and monitoring EV charging on the distribution networks so that our shareholders can plan, maintain and protect their physical assets, and deliver innovation. EV uptake is hitting new records every year, and is essential to achieving carbon neutrality, but challenges remain for the DNOs to futureproof their infrastructure. Digital solutions are the most scalable, adaptable and cost-effective. Skyline aims to embed data within a programme of incentives, institutional connections and collaboration so that EV drivers and DNOs can safeguard their assets.

The energy market regulator, Ofgem, is calling for the energy industry to prioritise reducing costs for end users, particularly in the economic wake of the pandemic. Data transparency is essential to increase efficiency, competition and innovation – all prerequisites to reduce costs. To reduce reporting burdens on market participants and to give Ofgem greater insights into energy market activity, ElectraLink has developed EMPRIS. This analytics platform extends data analysis in the regulator from the data scientist to the layperson. Economists, policymakers, market analysts and others at Ofgem now have the ability to create their own queries, search the metrics that matter to them, and have access to many datasets hosted on the EMDH.

With the forthcoming launch of the Retail Energy Code (REC), ElectraLink is focusing on the future of the network codes which require in-depth review and tweaks to render the grid capable of realising the clean energy transition. The network codes oversee a diverse system, including small-scale renewables and clean technologies like EV charging. These codes are the most important components of market regulation in a field which consistently receives criticism for its excessive complexity, high resource demands and restrictive market entry requirements. The codes need to move quickly to enable, rather than block, efforts to decarbonise and decentralise the energy system. ElectraLink intends to facilitate this transformation.

There is plenty to be excited about in 2021 aside from the promise of vaccines and finally being able to see our family and friends again. With the Energy White Paper guiding the energy market’s response to consumer and business calls for rapid, low-cost decarbonisation, ElectraLink is working with a sense of urgency to facilitate the transformation of the energy market.

Stay well and stay safe,

Stuart