Energy transition: no energy without data

The Rathenau Instituut concludes in the report 'Stroom van data' (flow of data) that there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to energy data. A socially responsible energy transition goes further than just concrete agreements for the sharing and use of data from sensors & smart devices. What exactly does this mean for governments and the energy sector?

The energy transition in the Netherlands is not just any transition. It’s a transition with high demands. In a new Energy Act, the Netherlands wants to establish that we have to switch to a clean energy supply that is at the same time affordable, reliable, safe and spatially adaptable. Data plays a crucial role in this: no energy without data. Many organizations, communities and citizens generate their own electricity. This is causing problems: in many places the electricity grid is overloaded. As a result, connections to the grid of new companies and solar or wind projects are on hold. Digital innovations are needed to keep supply and demand on the grid in balance. They also figuratively generate a stream of data.

Digital technology is an important instrument for making the energy system more efficient & flexible. The Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK) even calls data a "necessary and promising resource" for the energy system. With data and algorithms, the production & storage of electricity + the demand for it can be better coordinated. Sensors, smart meters and other 'innovative equipment', such as inverters for solar panels, EV charging stations and technology in electric cars, provide large amounts of data about the demand for and production of electricity. However, the opportunities that data offers for the energy transition are also countered by concerns about citizens' control over their data, the cyber security of the energy supply, and the distribution of the benefits and burdens of a data-driven energy market. The report looks at how we can use all the data to ensure a socially responsible energy transition.

According to the Rathenau researchers, the Energy Act (Energiewet) is incomplete. A more holistic approach to data governance is proposed. What exactly is happening with data & digitalization? The agreements that are currently being worked on mainly relate to improving data exchange. But that's not all that's involved. Consider, for example:

  • How are innovations brought to market? How do they contribute to an affordable energy system?
  • How do we make systems communicate with each other?
In addition, the government and sector parties do not have all the relevant data in sight: agreements are mainly about smart meter data, while clarification is also needed for the use of data from, for example, heat pumps, EV charging stations, or solar inverters.

Based on literature review and interviews with experts, the report makes 10 recommendations to the government and energy sector:

  • Develop energy data governance from the perspective of a socially responsible energy transition
  • Ensure flexibility and continuous monitoring of data governance
  • Anticipate challenges for the use of data from smart devices and other energy data
  • Ensure (open) standards and protocols for interoperability of smart devices and systems
  • Strengthen the cyber resilience of governments, businesses and citizens in the area of power supply
  • For public investments, ensure a transparent assessment of the lifespan of digital technology
  • Promote the market participation of new service providers, active customers and smart energy communities
  • Ensure a fair digital energy transition
  • Make 'sustainable' a guiding principle for the design of digital infrastructure
  • Invest in knowledge development and training

With this report, the Rathenau Instituut wants to provide administrators, politicians and citizens resources to discuss these complex social issues. We say: digital technology * data = energy transition. How do you see this?

Report: Stroom van data (flow of data) published by Rathenau Instituut

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