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Building data standards for future energy systems

In June this year, Northern Powergrid became our newest sponsor and we're delighted to be working together to develop a newdata standard for Distribution Future Energy Scenarios (DFES).

The company, which manages and maintains the electricity network across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, is committed to embracing open data and wants to foster innovation across the industry, invest intelligently, and find novel ways to engage with customers.

Our first project together will focus on DFES, which are an outline of potential future events (expected or unexpected) built around the scenarios defined in the National Grid Future Energy Scenarios. The 'Community Renewables' scenario, for example, assumes that people will adopt electric transport early and that there is strong support for renewable energy generation like solar panels and wind generation.

These kinds of changes described by DFES need to be supported by the underlying infrastructure of power grids, and the Scenario documents look at what the needs or variations in the network might look like over the next 10, 20 or even fifty years, helping electricity distribution operators like Northern Powergrid identify the decisions and changes that are needed to help manage their networks successfully.

Currently, organisations report their DFES in their own fashion- mostly as PDF reports, and primarily using internal or closed sources of data, created in isolation from other organisations that face the same challenges. However, these methods prevent meaningful collaboration or feedback. Developing an industry-wide data standard for DFES would address this problem and create opportunities for more innovation.

We've seen evidence of how successful this approach can be; developing a data standard for business rates reporting across West Yorkshire in partnership with the Open Data Collaboration Group and several sponsors on the Business Rates project. These new standards mean that we now have a way to visualise business rates data from which everyone - local government, citizens, business can benefit.

We want to repeat this success and are delighted to be working with Northern Powergrid to create a single platform for DFES analysis where anyone can publish their data (in the new standard), instantly see the critical points of their scenarios visualised, and draw comparisons across other scenarios from other organisations/sectors. Developed in the open and accessible to anyone, this will also demonstrate to the public and other stakeholders that Northern Powergrid are thinking critically about future energy technologies and developing a 'net-zero carbon' ready network.

Moreover, an open DFES platform will invite feedback and comments from those who have equivalent experience or data, improving the DFES for everyone. Northern Powergrid knows that a critical benefit of publishing DFES comes from the conversations that happen afterwards, so creating this data standard and 'platform' for DFES would be an easy-to-use and accessible way to get more people into those conversations.

So what are the next steps? The ODI Leeds team will work with Northern Powergrid on some initial test data to check formats and capability, and start working out what the challenges will be. We think geography will be a big one as there are likely to be particular geographies in the energy industry (as we saw with Distribution Management Areas for Yorkshire Water) that don't match efficiently to things like postcode areas, LSOAs, etc. But this is why we like to experiment with the data to start finding the paths to making it work for everyone.