The recent 2017 European Utility Week conference in Amsterdam was all about open data, interoperability and democratization of energy—involving both opportunities and risks for utilities. The value of energy data management topped the agenda in a Think Smartgrids- and Accenture-hosted panel discussion between executives from Alliander, EDP and Enedis. While participants agreed on the short-term opportunities in localized grid investments in the age of surging distributed generation, and on the potential of shared data hubs to pool in other ecosystem players, there was also a common voice in the need for regulator support for the significant initial digital investments required.
Many of the conference sessions emphasized the role of emerging energy communities, and the need for utilities to prepare for the democratization of energy (auto)generation facilitated by new service models such as virtual solar + storage “accounts,” new home tariff models, smart EV charging tariffs, EV ecosystem partnerships or virtual transmission lines. In addition, there was discussion about the rapidly growing startup scene ready to facilitate the consumer experience with blockchain and AI.
Data sharing and interoperability play a key role for grid operators and retailers, since well-organized consumers and startups are becoming actors on a level playing field, with the mounting need to consider all ecosystem participants. Indeed, the conference saw the kickstart of the first DSO-driven open data platform to collaborate with consumers, startups and other DSOs, and the launch of an open-platform IoT service for grid operators by OMNETRIC Group.
The conference also strongly reflected new security risks linked to the increasing collection and use of data across IoT platforms and interoperable systems. Some moves for distribution businesses were reflected Accenture’s latest Digitally Enabled Grid research report, “Outsmarting Grid Security Threats,” launched at the conference. While cybersecurity was not necessarily the top focus among grid operators two years ago, Accenture’s latest survey revealed interruption of supply from cyber attack to be the No. 1 most serious cybersecurity concern for utility executives. It’s clear that utilities will need to look to put cybersecurity at the core of the smart grid and move toward a more resilient power delivery system.