Why is Data Management Important to Energy Innovation?

Published: 4 May 2020

By Jake Verma, Digital Consultant, Energy Revolution Integration Service

Data management is important to energy innovation. If managed correctly, data can be a valuable asset; delivering fascinating and useful insights. Manage it incorrectly, and data can be confusing, contradictory, or more trouble than it’s worth.

So what data should an organisation collect and why? How should you store your data? How do you know which data is up to date? What sort of governance should you have over the data?

These are questions that are often asked once and then forgotten about or not asked at all. However, in a world where the availability of data is becoming ever greater, it’s important to remember that good data management is a key part of the overall management of any organisation or project.

Data Management Systems for Smart Local Energy

Prospering from the Energy Revolution (PFER) is a £100 million Innovate UK funded programme under the Clean Growth Industrial Challenge. Under PFER, selected projects are aiming to prove investable business models for Smart Local Energy Systems that will significantly impact our energy system, reducing carbon emissions, encouraging clean energy, providing flexibility services, and offering customers a better service and lower bills.

Smart Local Energy Systems are complex systems of systems, with multiple stakeholders collaborating to deliver multiple objectives. These might include enabling a greater capacity of renewable energy, decarbonising heating and transport, while also delivering a better, more valued service to end users. They not only include the electricity system, but also transport and heating, and use a broad range of low carbon technologies, from commercial scale batteries to domestic heat pumps.

The PFER projects are researching how these typically siloed products and services can be integrated to achieve these objectives in a cost effective and efficient way. Data access is a key part of how organisations start to break down silos to create products and services that deliver value across multiple sectors.

Common Data Challenges

Some of the common challenges the Energy Revolution Integration Service (ERIS) has identified are:

  • Multi-party consortia will be less able to understand and benefit from their research if they don’t have a unified approach to data management;
  • Questions such as what data, where to store it, how it’s kept up to date and how it’s governed are all simple questions that don’t start out with common answers;
  • Not having common answers to data questions leads to data silos, which inhibits the use and dissemination of the data – in a research context this can impair learning and potentially the delivery of the product or service that is the subject of the research;
  • GDPR challenges become unmanageable as the “right to be forgotten” is not implementable in a systematic way.

Energy Data Management Best Practice

To support and overcome these challenges, ERIS is working to build on the Energy Data Best Practice principles to create a data management framework that will help the PFER projects to implement and benefit from best practice guidelines.

Good data management processes make standard activities easier, such as reporting and business insight, but this benefit often conflicts with the upfront time required to set up the necessary processes. PFER projects have relatively short time scales, from 2-3 years, and are required to demonstrate their impact across a wide range of topics. ERIS believes that by implementing a common set of principles, this process can be more efficient and effective.

Data Management – Planning

ERIS has seen some early success following Innovate UK’s request for a data management strategy from each of the PFER projects. Working with Energy Superhub Oxford in late 2019, we helped project partners to create a new data management plan that aligned all the partners into one strategy. The aim was to facilitate data sharing between partners, and across the wider PFER programme. We aligned the data management plan with the energy data taskforce principles: to maximise the value of data.

Data Management – Operations

As well as data management helping the development stage of the projects, it is also vital during the operational phase. One common scenario across the PFER projects is where a customer offering may be delivered by multiple organisations – for example a “service bundle” may include a heat pump, EV charger and domestic battery, all with smart controls, to reduce the household energy bill. If a customer requests to “be forgotten”, which is a right under GDPR, a situation could be created where the consumer would have to deal directly with multiple organisations. If an organisation within the chain did not comply, all parties would be liable under the regulation.

Data Management – Outcomes

Robust data quality management and coordination between parties would allow that request to flow through the service chain, with limited effort on behalf of the consumer, and minimal liability on behalf of the providing organisations.

We think that effective data integration and management across the programme will not only support the individual projects and partners involved, but the broader objectives of the PFER Programme, too: from demonstrating the impact of Smart Local Energy Systems on the wider energy system, to supporting replicability and scalability of projects, to building evidence to support policy and regulatory changes.

Our ERIS and the Digital teams are looking forward to engaging with the detailed design projects and applying energy data best practice principles to some exciting and innovative projects.

If you would like to know more about our digital and data services or our work with the PFER projects please get in touch with the Energy Revolution Integration Service.