September 29, 2020

Rapid pandemic adaptation proves how ElectraLink supports energy market change, by Chief Executive Stuart Lacey

 

At the beginning of the year, ElectraLink was looking forward to a year of growth as the UK energy market continued to evolve to meet the challenges of a changing energy landscape. When COVID-19 first started spreading across the UK and quickly resulted in a national lockdown, prospects for our economy became uncertain, yet we were able to adapt quickly and power ahead to address the major change still on our horizon. With the infrastructure and facilities already in place for ElectraLink staff to work from home, all staff, including myself, have been operating remotely, continuing to deliver core services to the same standard and efficiency as ever. We have all adapted well to keep the wheels turning during this difficult time.

In the energy industry, there has traditionally been a tendency to continue to operate in certain ways simply because that is how it has always been done. If a global pandemic has taught us anything, it is that sometimes things do change and the energy industry needs to be agile enough to adapt quickly, and data is key to doing that. Data allows us to make informed decisions and it is secure access to relevant, accurate data at a rapid pace which allows the energy industry to respond to new challenges and shifting priorities. During this time of uncertainty, ElectraLink has demonstrated that it is capable of providing that service to the industry.

Soon after lockdown was introduced in the UK, we began to look into how we could analyse the data generated from the Data Transfer Service (DTS) to allow the market to better understand the impact of COVID-19. This included analysing industrial and commercial (I&C) electricity consumption across the country to understand the impact on UK industry. We have also been using data to understand the impact COVID-19 had on customer behaviour by tracking the impact on customer switching and the effect on nationwide, government-led programmes such as the smart meter rollout. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what can be done with the industry data held by ElectraLink. If you would like to understand how the data we hold can inform your business and future planning then please get in touch with our data experts.

The pandemic has forced us all to stop and reflect on what is important and a new urgency to decarbonise has emerged. Consumers became increasingly focussed on how we can move to a low carbon economy when they saw the environment improve after factories, mills, mines and power stations closed and airline fleets were grounded. Although this economic inactivity is not sustainable, the public is now much more behind the move to a low carbon society. In a recent open letter, Ofgem’s Head of Data, reiterated that “Modernising the GB energy system through digitalisation is playing a key in role facilitating Net Zero…” and “the need for further effort in this area”.

Using data to accelerate Net Zero has been one of the key drivers for our most recent projects, Flexr.  Following a consultation in April, for which we received a wide range of support, ElectraLink is making significant progress in the development of a minimum viable product for a first-of-its-kind network and flexible customer data standardisation and sharing service, between electricity DNOs and the market. Flexr will enable accessible, efficient, granular, near real-time data-sharing at scale – a significant practical step to deliver the energy system data revolution, supporting DSO transition, flexibility markets and whole system coordination.

We believe that the time for Flexr has arrived with high consumer focus on decarbonisation presenting a perfect opportunity for energy data to underpin decarbonisation preparations. Critically, the data shared via Flexr will promote the competition and new data-driven innovations that are required to deliver Net Zero.

Similarly, energy market governance has a significant role to play, which is why we have also been strong proponents of the digitalisation of energy codes. Having digitalised the Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice (SMICoP) in 2019, we are now working on the digitalisation of a more complex code: the Distribution Connection and Use of Service Agreement (DCUSA). We believe this will provide an excellent basis for the development of future code governance which presents  vital opportunities to revolutionise the way the  energy market is governed to bring benefits to the industry and consumers alike.

Although so much has changed in the past decade, running a secure, stable, value-for-money data transfer service for the UK energy market remains a priority for ElectraLink. With the increasing volume and granularity of data sent across the DTS and the greater variety of market participants who transfer this data, our data transfer, discovery and insights portfolio of services has developed with the addition of new solutions, such as a data portal for the regulator, FlowBuilder, WebTools, RGMAConnect and others.

ElectraLink is focussed on keeping the pricing of its cost recovered services (CRS) low and expanding the range of CRS with innovative services which can be used by all participants in the energy marketplace. These types of services are vital for increasing competition, reducing complexity and encouraging collaboration in the marketplace, conditions required to address the challenge of net zero and the pressures stemming from the adoption of electric vehicles and the growth in distributed energy resources (DERs).

Adapting to rapid change has been the defining feature of the year so far. Lockdown adjustments aside ElectraLink continues to recruit and please consult our careers page for details of our current vacancies. If you see anything that looks right for you, it would be great to hear from you.

Stuart