A new report has called for greater collaboration in the utilities sector to help fulfil its climate ambitions.
Combining insight from water services provider Northumbrian Water Group and data specialists CKDelta, the report examines how the utilities sector can address four key challenges facing the industry today – including leak reduction, shifting patterns of usage, and the emergence of a new energy economy – by deploying open-source, data-driven models.
The report, Pioneering cross-sector change and collaboration (see attached), comes at a time when electricity, gas, and water companies are coming under increasing regulatory and consumer scrutiny and the sector is driving forwards with ambitious environmental targets. The water sector, for instance, has committed to delivering net zero emissions by 2030, while the government has committed to decarbonising the electricity grid by 2035.
Highlighting shifting patterns of energy and water usage as a core challenge to achieving these targets, the report states that integrated solutions that can accurately accommodate and predict both emerging and static trends are needed. It identifies predictive data models developed from machine learning with high-frequency data as one such solution, noting that these models could also play a key role in optimising existing systems and networks.
The report goes on to suggest that companies and their investors should rethink their approach to effectively address the challenges posed by delivering a low carbon future, adopting whole systems models to gain visibility of competing aims across networks. These models empower organisations to holistically assess alternative energy and investment needs against other commercial targets, such as cost reduction.
CKDelta conclude their report with four recommendations, which are designed to foster an environment of collaboration and change, transparency and openness, and deliver on the sector’s net zero ambitions. These recommendations include putting the consumer at the heart of organisational decision making, using integrated data sources at all stages of the value chain, and keeping whole systems models at the forefront when deploying new infrastructure on the network.
Geoff McGrath, managing director of CKDelta, said: “The utilities sector is at a watershed moment. The eyes of consumers and regulators are firmly fixed on electricity, water, and gas providers across the UK. Cost, environmental impacts, and consumer satisfaction are changing the way the sector delivers for customers.
“To help redefine the long term vision of the utilities sector, we need the right tools and platforms to deliver for customers, investors, and the environment. We do not have long to get this right. Data-driven collaboration within the utilities industry and between cross-sector stakeholders has a significant role to play. The potential to integrate data across the value chain means we can re-conceptualise how we think about, and deploy, systems with both embedded and adaptive intelligence to optimise system performance without compromising on our net zero ambitions.
“Fundamentally, data-driven models will empower the utilities sector to identify innovative, cost-efficient solutions to its core challenges, delivering net zero alongside better services for the public and a positive return on investment for companies.”
Nigel Watson, chief innovation officer at Northumbrian Water Group, said: “As we near the halfway mark on AMP7, we are now starting to shape and share what our plan will be for AMP8. We have already set our own ambitious target to reach net zero by 2027. What is becoming clear is the need to collaborate on how this is achieved and how we understand and utilise the tools that will deliver on our bold environmental ambitions. The insights offered from open data are ultimately what will help us to drive the systemic responses to these challenges and help enable the transition to net zero in our industry.”