Digitalisation is transforming the energy architecture and profoundly impacting business strategies and relations between consumers and utilities. While providing all players with new opportunities, digitalisation also poses signification challenges in terms of DSO and retail supply regulation and policy-making. In its recently published paper, EURELECTRIC maps out the data of the energy sector, examines the implication of digitalisation for all energy players and makes several recommendations about the regulatory rules, which govern data access and data exchange.
The digitalisation of the energy system and the advent of smart meters can bring benefits to all energy players . In the short term, consumers will gain more control over their energy use and benefit from additional services. Suppliers will optimise their business, tailor new offers and target their communication. System operators will benefit from new tools to manage their grids more efficiently and integrate an increasing amount of variable renewables in the system. In the long term, interaction between intelligent appliances, smart grids and home platforms – mediated by or on behalf of consumers – will usher in a new era with radically different consumption patterns centered on automation and remote controls.
The road to digitalisation, however, is a winding one. The roll-out of smart meters at European level is often slower than expected because of varying cost-benefit analysis outcomes in different European countries as well as data privacy and security concerns. Digital appliances and services may not yet be attractive enough for many consumers – not simple enough or too expensive. For businesses, a lack of standardisation and interoperability may slow down the commercialisation of new appliances, and learning to process and convert reams of unstructured data into concrete action takes time.Markets and innovation will solve some of these issues. However, many will only be mastered if the regulatory framework is fit for purpose.
In order to understand the opportunities and challenges at stake with digitalisation and big data, it is necessary to clarify the different types of data and how they are treated by regulation. In this report EURELECTRIC proposes to distinguish between (smart) meter data, (smart) grid data and (smart) market data and to divide data uses into regulated obligations and commercial services.
EURELECTRIC reiterates that there is no ‘one size fits all’ model applicable in all European countries for smart meter data management. However, common principles must be set at EU level: neutrality, non-discrimination, transparency, cost-efficiency, high quality, security and privacy.
Whilst horizontal legislation on data protection exists at EU level – the EU data protection regulation has just been adopted - the energy sector remains a best practice example when it comes to giving customers control over their data. At a time where inter-industry demarcation lines are getting blurry, EURELECTRIC considers that the same regulatory principles should apply to all data directly collected from customers. Thus, transparency and data privacy for customers would be guaranteed and a level playing field for market players assured, even if they come from different sectors
Moreover, regulation should ensure that smart grid data exchange between system operators and market players is enhanced in all relevant timeframes (network planning, operational planning and scheduling, day-ahead, intraday etc.). This is necessary to prevent and solve grid congestion - both at transmission and distribution level – but also to ensure the balancing of production/consumption at national level. Mutual processes, data management models, data formats and communication protocols for data exchange should be agreed upon at EU level when applicable and efficient. Where this is not possible, Member States should strive for standardisation at national level as a minimum.
The EURELECTRIC report concludes with several case studies of innovative data services by retail suppliers and DSOs.
 By ‘energy players’ we mean consumers, regulated entities (DSOs and TSOs) and commercial players (suppliers, ESCOs, aggregators etc.).