European Commission’s Sustainable Energy Week highlights importance of data in the rapidly evolving energy sector
- By Valentina Ponomariova | July 14, 2020
Since 2006, the European Commission has been bringing together public authorities, private companies, NGOs, and consumers through a series of keynote speeches, debates, and open discussions known collectively as EU Sustainable Energy Week. The goal is to promote initiatives that save energy and move the EU towards renewables for cleaner, more secure, and more efficient power generation.
Databroker had the pleasure of participating in this year’s event, which was held entirely online. The highlight of the event was a 3-day Policy Conference, which was attended by over 6000 participants from 120 countries. The theme for this year’s Sustainable Energy Week Policy Conference was “Beyond the crisis: clean energy for green recovery and growth.”
In December of 2019, the European Commission announced its European Green Deal, a set of policy initiatives with the overarching aim of making Europe climate neutral by 2050. Now, in the face of economic downturn at a scale not seen since the pre-war era, the EU is massively ratcheting up its direct involvement in the economy and Parliament wants the Green Deal to be at the core of the EU’s Covid-19 recovery package. In response to the fallout from the pandemic, the EU is setting hopes on sustainable energy as both a path to economic recovery and a core component of meeting climate change goals. Therefore, the themes discussed in this year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week Policy Conference are likely to play a big role in the policy orientation taken by the EU in the coming years.
Here are our thoughts on the key takeaways from the Policy Conference with specific focus on how they relate to the market for data – which at Databroker, is of course our specialty.
1. Energy System Integration
Central to achieving the Green Deal’s goal of making Europe climate neutral is the promotion of sustainable energy. The EU Energy System Integration Strategy – one of the first policy initiatives to come out of the European Green Deal - is a core plan of action for achieving more sustainable energy generation. This strategy, which was officially published on July 8th 2020, was discussed extensively in the Sustainable Energy Week Policy Conference, including in the Conference’s keynote speech by European Commissioner Kadri Simson.
What is Energy System Integration?
In her speech, Simson described Energy System Integration as “the energy system of the future.”
Our current energy system can be compared to, as Simson puts it, “a team of people working in a room together silently. Each is productive in their own right, but they are not communicating properly.”
She goes on:
“Energy System Integration is like creating a new language so that each individual can talk to one another and connect the dots in their work.
Now collaborating as one continuous and intuitive group, their output improves in quality and quantity.
Energy System Integration is a core component of the EU’s sustainable energy policy plan. This means that, with the EU’s support, Energy System Integration will progress rapidly in the coming years.
Achieving Energy System Integration is highly reliant on data sharing, particularly in the smart energy sector. This bodes well for a peer-to-peer platform that enables the secure and real-time transacting of data (such as the Databroker marketplace for data).
New grid assets such as batteries, electric cars, charging stations, solar panels, thermostats, and private energy management systems are constantly joining the energy system. Each of these assets generates data and, since most of the assets now take the form of IoT devices, the data they generate is easily accessible. The data generated by these devices has many potential uses, meaning it has real value.
The data can, for instance, boost Energy System Integration by enabling improved coordination between each additional asset and with the rest of the grid. Compiling the data from these devices can empower to the grid to react, potentially in real time, to shifting supply and demand. This transition to a “smart” grid can result in a more efficient (sustainable) grid, lower prices, dynamic prices, more resiliency, etc.
The potential use cases for data generated by grid assets are wide and unpredictable.
- For example, financial sector players may be interested in the data as a way to tie loans to energy generation (this would have the side effect of increasing the sustainability of residential property).
- Another example is mobility sector players using the data to make real-time adjustments to transport costs for electric vehicles based on dynamic grid capacity. This means your taxi could be more expensive at times when the grid is near capacity and less expensive when the grid has surplus capacity.
By providing a platform for the secure trading of data generated by grid assets, the Databroker marketplace unlocks use cases like those described above, and many more. In doing so, it also unlocks the value of the data generated. On one side, the Databroker marketplace allows data sellers – in this case owners of the grid assets – to earn additional revenue from the data they generate. On the other side, it gives buyers access to high quality data that provides them with valuable insights from which they can profit. At a large scale, Databroker’s marketplace could also simplify the creation of data alliances between the many different energy actors operating in the energy production and supply chain, thereby advancing Energy System Integration.
2. Digitization in the energy sector
Background and takeaway:
Europe is pushing digitalisation of the energy sector. The vision is the creation of an energy sector where IoT devices are supported by 5G connectivity to enable Energy System Integration, facilitate research & innovation, streamline compliance to new regulatory measures, and support more open energy markets.
This year’s Sustainable Energy Week Policy Conference included a session entitled “Creating a Digital Ecosystem for The Energy Sector.” Participants noted that there are significant opportunities to adapt digital innovation towards the goal of optimising and transforming existing infrastructure and processes. At the same times, participants also noted, there exists great opportunity to find new ways to conduct business in the new digital ecosystem.
In another session entitled “Energy Data at Your Fingertips?!” speakers highlighted the 2019 Clean Energy Package’s measures to ensure timely access to metering and consumption/generation data for eligible parties, be it consumers, network operators, suppliers, third parties, or service providers. This initiative, which includes measures for legal clarity around such data, supports the EU’s push towards not only digitalisation, but also democratisation of a critical asset in the information era: data.
Europe’s drive towards digitisation in the energy sector means more and more energy sector-related data sources will be available in the coming years. This combines with improved clarity as to the legal status of such data, to equal vastly more opportunities for data exchange in the near future. This data has value, as it can be applied towards everything from research into sustainable energy practices to creating insights for value-added services and other business opportunities. This means there will be more opportunities for data monetisation as digitalisation advances. Therefore, broadly speaking, digitalisation of the energy sector, as supported by the EU, again bodes well for the adoption and utility of Databroker’s marketplace for data.
3. Building renovation
Buildings are the largest single energy consumer in Europe, responsible for approximately 40% of energy consumption and accounting for 36% of CO2 emissions. By comparison, transportation and industry account for 33% and 26% of CO2 emissions respectively.
The primary energy inputs for buildings in Europe go towards heating, cooling, and lighting – all of which can be done more efficiently with renovations and upgrades. Unsurprisingly, refurbishing and retrofitting buildings, both public and residential, has emerged as another core component of the European Green Deal. The Building and Renovating policy initiative (which is part of the European Green Deal) calls for the following:
· Prices of different energy sources should incentivize energy-efficient buildings
· Design of buildings should be in line with the circular economy
· Increased digitalization
· More climate-proofing of buildings
· Strict enforcement of rules on energy performance of buildings.
All of the above initiatives were discussed and promoted in this year’s Sustainable Energy Week Policy Conference.
Promoting more energy efficient buildings is another core component of the EU’s sustainable energy policy plan. The EU will proactively support energy efficient buildings as well as provide, through the newly proposed EU Climate Law, a legal framework for enforcement measures. This means that the market for building renovations, building retrofitting, building designs, and energy efficient building compliance will grow rapidly in the coming years.
The EU’s move towards improving the energy efficiency of buildings is very much connected to its drive towards Energy System Integration and digitisation. Note that the policies called for by the Green Deal’s Building and Renovating initiative, like the Energy System Integration initiative, both rely heavily upon and benefit from data gathered by smart devices.
For example, consider the “Strict enforcement of rules on energy performance of buildings” policy. This policy requires a regulatory response from which a corresponding private sector reaction will ensue. From a regulatory perspective, enforcing such a policy would require certain data inputs. At a minimum, for example, to determine whether a building is in compliance, the interior volume of a building could be compared to the total energy consumed by that building. However, a variety of factors quickly lead to complexity that may require more data inputs to resolve. For example, should a building that handles a lot of through traffic be allowed to consume more energy than one that doesn’t? If we are to make distinctions in such a scenario, complementary data on the volume of traffic through the building is needed. From the perspective of building owners, a wide variety of data inputs could be leveraged in order to maximise energy efficiency and/or ensure regulatory compliance. For example, data generated by IoT connected devices such as thermometers, smart meters, and even door sensors and window shades could all be leveraged to those ends. Data can be fed back into building information modeling systems, for instance, to schedule maintenance activities as required.
All of this means that the data generated by smart devices in buildings has value. Businesses looking to offer services based on insights derived from that data are willing to pay for the data. Those generating the data meanwhile stand to earn revenue from its sale. The Databroker marketplace, by facilitating data transactions, can contribute to the EU’s energy sustainability goals while enabling businesses to gain insights that can drive economic growth.
4. Research and innovation
Another message that was made loud and clear during the three-day EU Sustainable Energy Week Policy Conference is that research and innovation are needed to drive both development and uptake of sustainable energy technologies. International Energy Agency Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol summed up the sentiment nicely in a speech made during a high-level session entitled “Energy Transition Towards Climate Neutrality: The EU’s Support for Clean Energy Technologies and Innovation”:
“For me, the magic word for zero net emissions is one word: innovation. In the absence of innovation of critical clean energy technologies, we have no chance whatsoever to reach the net zero emission goals.”
Through the European Green Deal, the EU is bolstering research & innovation towards strengthening the competitiveness of clean technologies. This means research in the sustainable energy field should enjoy considerable support in the coming years.
Quality data is a foundation of research. In the field of sustainable energy research, a wide variety of data sources can be of use.
- For example, researchers designing more energy-efficient buildings or renovation techniques, benefit greatly from data generated by sensors in existing buildings such as airflow data, temperature data, light sensor data, and so on.
- Another example is renewable energy generation hardware like solar panels and wind turbines. Data gathered from in-the-field hardware can inform development of improved iterations of such hardware.
All of this data has value to researchers but, in the status quo, it can be hard to find. One problem is that data providers lack incentives to share their data, meaning the data ends up trapped in silos. The Databroker marketplace, by offering incentive for data providers in the form of revenue for selling their data, takes advantage of powerful market forces towards stimulating the growth of accessible data pools. By offering a secure and transparent market for data, Databroker encourages the growth of quality data pools. This can play an important roll in supporting the availability of the data that is essential for the research needed to meet the sustainability goals outlined in Europe’s Green Deal.
5. Accelerating energy sustainability through Industry 4.0
As IoT devices proliferate in manufacturing, there becomes more opportunity to use the data generated from those devices to improve operational efficiencies. Industry 4.0 refers to the marrying of advanced production and operations techniques with smart digital technologies. For example, where all components in a manufacturing process are equipped with IoT-enabled sensors, it becomes possible for the manufacturer to perfectly optimise scheduling and asset utilisation.
The EU expects the Industry 4.0 revolution to positively impact energy sustainability. In a high-level session from this year’s Sustainable Energy Week Policy Conference entitled “Clean.Competitive.Connected: How to Successfully Design Smart Sector Integration in The Twin Climate and Digital Transition” speaker Cassandra Pillay of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, for instance, suggested exactly that. She noted, for example, that smart factories connected to a smart grid can in many cases automatically adjust the timing of energy intensive production processes to coincide with the availability of cheaper renewable energy sources.
Industry 4.0 melds the physical and digital worlds around new sources of operational data that can be mined to uncover and profit from the resulting insights.
- To give an example, consider the data generated by an array of smart wind turbines. This may include ambient windspeed, blade speed, electrical output, vibration, and so on. That data is valuable because, in theory, it can be used to predict outcomes like mean time to failure. This enables the owner of the assets to engage in predictive maintenance that can extend the lifetime of the turbine and increase profits.
While data from an array of wind turbines, as an example, may have inherent value, that value is often not utilised due to either a lack of know-how on the part of the wind turbine array owner, or due to insufficient volume of data. This is where the importance of data marketplaces becomes clear. The wind turbine array owner can easily monetise the data generated from his turbines by making it available in the marketplace. Other parties, with the means to gain valuable insights from that data, can turn to the marketplace to obtain it at market price. By enabling market forces, Databroker’s marketplace can spur the move towards Industry 4.0 and, in the process, support energy sustainability as hoped by the EU.
As Europe embarks on its biggest direct economic intervention in the post-war era, it is placing energy sustainability at the center of its strategy for driving economic growth while continuing the move towards a carbon-neutral economy.
Data is critical for achieving energy sustainability. It is needed for Energy System Integration, it forms the backbone of Industry 4.0, and it is foundational for research and innovation. In the status quo, most of the data needed for the sustainable energy revolution is trapped in silos. A secure marketplace for data unleashes market forces to draw siloed data into accessible data pools. That process will drive research and innovation while unlocking a wide variety of business use cases that can stimulate economic growth.
Do you have data to sell or share?
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