FES 2020 – How data and digitalisation will drive our journey to net zero

Our Future Energy Scenarios (FES) model different ways Britain might achieve its net zero targets by 2050. In our latest FES analysis, we highlight how open data and digitalisation are central to us reaching that goal – and how you have a role to play.

In the energy sector we talk a lot about the importance of ‘whole system’ thinking to a low carbon future.

There’s not just one system in Britain making sure our power needs are met, of course. There are many of them, all connected in different ways and interacting with one another. Those interactions help make processes within and outside the industry coordinate with each other and behave more like one whole system.

The country’s gas and electricity networks, for example, work hand-in-glove when it comes to gas-fired electricity generation. And non-energy sectors like agriculture interact with the power industry, for instance through bioenergy production.

You’ll be part of a smart, flexible grid driven by data. It might mean getting an alert on your smartwatch to plug in your EV, or your heat pump might automatically manage demand

Open data and digitalisation are the key ingredients that make these interactions possible, and – as highlighted in our experts’ latest FES analysis – they underpin the whole system thinking we’ll need to reach the country’s net zero target.

The forecasts in FES 2020’s scenarios give an indication of the central role that open data and digitalisation will play.

With vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology and intelligent management of household heating demand becoming prevalent in a number of our scenarios, access to open data – both for energy market participants and for the consumer – will help unlock the potential of smart energy in a net zero future.

Read our 2020 Future Energy Scenarios (FES) in full

As a consumer in 2050, you might get an alert on your smartwatch telling you when to plug in your EV. Or your heat pump might respond automatically to market signals to manage demand. You’ll be part of a smart, flexible grid – and it’ll be driven by data and digital access.

Today, consumers are already being empowered by data to exploit clean energy and lower prices. Our own carbon intensity app tells you when to use power at its greenest, and the forecasting data we make publicly available is enabling third parties to adapt and share the information in similar ways.

As a consumer, you can influence these energy decarbonisation pathways with the technology choices you make today. If you’re choosing to buy an EV, install a solar panel or use a smart appliance, you’re already supporting the journey to net zero – and you’re getting your home ready to make the most of opportunities presented by a digitalised grid.

It’s not just consumers who will benefit. Open data access is fundamental for the rapidly growing number of energy market participants, too, changing the way they interact with one another and enabling them to innovate and make informed choices.

At the ESO we’re harnessing data and digital technologies in new ways to help balance the grid. Our Power Available signal uses live data to unlock the potential of renewables to balance the grid, and a collaborative project is exploring how smart control of electric heating in Scotland can solve network constraints.

It’s also helping us to remove barriers to entry in the market, and – in the case of our RecorDER project – use blockchain to build and share insight into network assets.

These are just some of the ways transparent and advanced analysis of data is already helping us navigate some of today’s energy challenges, supporting a whole system approach to solutions.

As the energy landscape evolves, digital innovation and access to more and better data will only become more important in driving our transition to net zero.