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SPEN unveils digitalisation strategy, targeting open data, smart systems and improved monitoring

Image: SP Energy Networks.

Image: SP Energy Networks.

SP Energy Networks (SPEN) has unveiled its digitalisation strategy, focusing on open data, improved monitoring and managing capacity issues through smart solutions.

As decarbonisaition and decentralisation accelerate, digitilsation will be a “key tool” in managing the transition, with SPEN’s strategy spanning the entirety of its operations.

Traditional network reinforcement will not be enough to deliver the scale of change required alone, it warned, stressing the need to maximise the potential of existing infrastructure and use flexible, smarter solutions to optimise the use of both network and non-network assets.

SPEN pointed to efforts already made to ramp up digitalisation, including project FUSION, a project exploring commoditised local demand-side flexibility. FUSION requires accurate data and system automation, and SPEN is currently collaborating across its different business functions to make sure necessary data and digital systems are in place.

It also cites the recommendations made by the Energy Data Taskforce earlier this year, stating it is playing an active role in delivering those recommendations.

The key areas of SPEN’s digitalisation strategy break down into:

  • Supporting the development of new business models and markets, including facilitating a transactive flexibility market, publishing open data, supporting industry collaboration and participating in markets.
  • Using digital technologies to improve customer service and experiences, with increased integration and a Customer Service portal.
  • Investing in the digital skills of its staff.
  • Improving mastery of its data through improved governance and security, master data management, a holistic asset register and having data be presumed open.
  • Developing options to manage peak loads.
  • Monitoring and controlling the network.

Learnings from the progress made in digitalising its transmission network will be used to increase its monitoring, managing and control of its networks. It will also focus on creating an active low voltage network, using data and analytics to optimise network planning and operation and increasing real-time visibility and autonomous operation of its distribution network.

Methods of managing capacity issues include active network management, a demand forecasting tool, local area energy plans, a generation export management system, flexibility tendering, influencing behaviour beyond the meter and understanding the impact of low carbon technology in homes.

“Improvements in control, automation, flexibility and demand side management are helping us create a more dynamic and active network," Frank Mitchell, CEO of SPEN, wrote in the strategy’s introduction.

“We need to make significant investment to create the network that the future needs. That’s going to mean more intelligent monitoring, smart systems and more advanced technology to help drive the uptake of electric vehicles and new electric heating devices.”

SPEN is also committing to making data visible and accessible to external parties and developing flexibility service systems that are interoperable and free for service providers to use, as well as looking to use external providers rather than developing market platforms internally.

Learnings are to be taken from outside the energy sector, with SPEN citing the telecoms, transport and media sectors as ones where digitalisation has already made a positive contribution.

Alongside facilitating activities common across all network companies in support of digitalisation strategies, SPEN intends to work with Ofgem, the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and other stakeholders to help progress other key recommendations from the Energy Data Taskforce.

These include identification and agreement of data sharing requirements, development of a common index of network data, including meta data, identification of common platforms for sharing data and development of a common digital systems map.

“The speed of change and the radical transformation required across the industry means we cannot stand still.

“We need a fair regulatory regime that reflects the investment required, the risk association and the incentives necessary to meet today’s challenges," Mitchell added.

The strategy is to be refreshed annually, with the Process and Systems centre of Excellence to be responsible for reviewing and updating it while tracking the progress of the projects that will deliver the strategic vision.

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