Energy UK Conference 2020: Key takeaways

Posted by Mohammad Syed,

Topics: Data, Digital, Energy and Commercial

In this blog, Mohammad Syed ACA reflects on our sponsorship of and participation in this year’s Energy UK Conference 2020.

As Executive sponsors of Energy UK 2020, we joined a panel of experts to discuss how the industry could overcome its numerous challenges and better serve its customers and workforce.

Tackling the issues

As a company, we are passionate about helping our clients leverage data & analytics to make better business decisions and prepare for a net zero future. In our recent whitepaper and subsequent webinar, we discussed how utilising open data is key to achieving the UK’s net zero ambitions. At this year’s Energy UK conference, we listened to those at the forefront of energy innovation explain how the sector can realise this ambition.

During the conference, Marius Rubin (CTO) joined the panel for a discussion on how emerging technology and the innovative use of data can help the energy sector reach net zero. Marius was joined by Edmund Reid (Head of Strategy, Centrica), Mike Hewitt (CTO, Smart DCC), JoJo Hubbard (CEO, Electron), and Denise Massey (Managing Director, EIC). He later shared his thoughts:

“As we talked to our customers, experts, and innovators at the Energy UK conference, it was clear that data & technology innovation, and the transformation of IT organisations, will be at the heart of the energy transition and essential to ensuring that all consumers benefit from a NetZero future” - Marius Rubin, CTO, DMW Group

Key themes from the session

There are three key takeaways that we would like to share from this year’s event:

The role of customers in the energy transition

We learned why ‘big government’ initiatives will not be sufficient and why the next five years should focus on enabling customers to optimise grid assets. This would help them decide whether to use or sell energy through price signals, all powered by greater market flexibility and real-time market mechanisms. Increasing grid stability and transparency to allow for many points of consumption and production whilst encouraging people to do ‘a million small things’ to optimise energy usage is key.

The balance between collaboration and competition

During the conference, Denise Massey, Managing Director, EIC, noted: “If you want incremental growth, you need to compete, but if you want exponential growth, you need to collaborate.” She illustrated how previously unrelated industries such as Pharmaceuticals, Oil & Gas, and Fashion were now collaborating to enable a much deeper understanding of their joint climate impact.

This raised a lively discussion on how businesses can better understand their climate connection and work together more effectively. The need to balance competition with collaboration to promote shared innovation is certain to be a topic of regulatory focus and one that will require a re-think of market mechanisms.

The importance of smart infrastructure

We learned how net zero required a ‘digital backbone’ to allow innovators to create customer- facing services using shared data for vulnerable people or similar. Speakers addressed the importance of open data, as well as the need to tackle a lack of collective ambition and innovation fragmentation. Cost allocation, such as cost recovery via market mechanisms, will also require further exploration.

Data as infrastructure

One item that drew on the points outlined in our whitepaper was ‘Data as Infrastructure.’ This is the idea that data should be treated as a critical component of 21st century infrastructure and incorporated into the performance, design, and maintenance of critical infrastructure by default.
Underpinning this notion were the following key insights:

  • Opening access to data also requires underlying market, collection, and trading systems to be opened as part of a common infrastructure with decentralised data access rights;

  • Organisations need to be able to communicate demand and availability of data to each other. This might be through shared energy data marketplaces that can inform investment priorities;

  • Opening data will reduce the cost of integrating with smarter energy grids. This allows smaller organisations to be part of the transition to decentralisation by reducing barriers to entry.

Data as infrastructure is an interesting concept and it is one that we are excited to help our clients prepare for through the adoption of modern data, analytics, cloud architectures, and paradigms.

The barriers to net zero

The conference panel discussed the barriers that exist to net zero and how they might be overcome:

  • Moving from innovation to BAU is hindered by existing mindsets and culture as businesses resist new ways of working. The idea of collaborating with competitors is considered unusual;

  • The ‘Collective Action Problem,’ whereby the benefits of innovation accrue to the last and not the first mover. As a result, innovation and new capabilities are not shared on a wider scale;

  • Existing market mechanisms do not incentivise collaboration with competitors, or the rapid and iterative solutions that will be required to address the immediate climate crisis.

These are all major challenges, and we aim to help our clients to adopt Agile/ DevOps practices, move to an ‘innovation as BAU’ mindset, and put in place new delivery models to deliver at speed.

Additionally, existing data policies will need to be reconsidered through the lens of greater sharing. On a broader scale, a rethink of market mechanisms will be essential to encourage the sharing of data and incentivise collaborative innovation between competitors.

In a nutshell

We are proud to have sponsored the Energy UK Conference 2020 and to have had the opportunity to be involved in conversations around how to reach net zero, building on the ideas outlined in our whitepaper. We look forward to putting these ideas into action and helping organisations realise a net zero future.

Download our whitepaper  >

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