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Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) Distribution has partnered with non-profit Icebreaker One to break down the electricity network operator’s data silos and develop new ways of sharing data that support the sector’s wider transition to net-zero.
SSEN, which is responsible for delivering power to more than 3.8 million homes and businesses across central southern England and northern Scotland, said the deployment of new data-sharing techniques and services will be vital for electricity network operators to manage the extra demands placed on their systems by the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) and other low-carbon technologies such as heat pumps.
It said that with nearly 16 million EVs expected on UK roads by 2030 – which is also when the government plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars – the country needs to roll out hundreds of thousands more charging points – scale that can only be achieved through access to reliable data that helps operators to understand both consumer demand and the electricity network’s capacity.
According to Department of Transport figures, there were 28,375 public EV charging devices available in the UK as of 1 January 2022, 5,156 of which were rapid chargers. This was a 37% increase on the total number of chargers available in January 2021.
SSEN’s partnership with Icebreaker One – which was set up to connect a range of financial, industry and environmental data to help inform net-zero decision-making – will aim to identify and break data silos, so that new ways of data sharing can be developed, both internally and between operators.
Through two trial projects, the organisations will initially work together to identify what datasets are needed, the barriers to effective data access and sharing, and how to overcome any of the data-sharing challenges identified.
This will be the first time Icebreaker One has formally partnered with an electricity network operator to understand what data sharing is necessary for the net-zero transition.
“As a network operator, we are responsible for holding and managing energy data,” said Andrew Roper, distribution system operations director at SSEN Distribution. “Sharing our data in a carefully agreed manner with other network users can play a major role in helping to plan and prepare for the arrival of low-carbon technologies on our network. We are learning from other sectors, such as the UK banking industry, which developed more open banking processes that increased competition and innovation, creating better service and more value for customers.
“We are delighted to be working with Icebreaker One on this initial project, which should facilitate data sharing and support efficiencies that will ultimately deliver a more cost-effective net-zero transition.”
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Gea Mikic, co-founder and project director at Icebreaker One, said the roll-out of EV charging points will rely on connecting data across a network of organisations responsible for energy distribution.
“This partnership will speed up the UK’s energy data revolution by identifying how SSEN can access and share the energy data needed to get more electric vehicle charge points installed in homes across the UK,” she said.
“Better access to data is crucial to delivering net-zero, from installing more electric vehicle charge points to adding more renewables to our energy grid. This is why we are determined to make data work harder to get to net-zero.”
Laura Sandys, chair of the Energy Digitalisation Taskforce, said it was crucial for network operators to make their data sharable and adopt open principles. “We are hoping that all networks will be making their data accessible and as open as possible to ensure that we can crowd in new actors and companies to support the management of a decarbonised grid,” she said.
SSEN’s partnership with Icebreaker One builds on work already undertaken by the operator to facilitate the transition to EVs in the regions it covers.
In May 2022, for example, SSEN launched its Customer-Led Electric VEhicle Registration (CLEVER) project to help map out what data network operators need to support the roll-out of various low-carbon technologies – including EVs and heat pumps – as well as what data customers are able and willing to provide.
And in June, SSEN published its Whole system register, which sets out the operator’s full portfolio of cross-sector innovation and business activities so that stakeholders can gain a clearer understanding of its work and how they can get involved in the move to net-zero.
Icebreaker One previously partnered with SSEN Transmission in March 2022 on a project to help energy networks use meteorological data to prepare for extreme weather and improve the resilience of the UK’s energy network, which received funding from Ofgem’s Strategic Innovation Fund.