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20 September 2018 3 min read

Financial Times Digital Energy Summit - Key themes

David Hatcher

David Hatcher
Senior Partner | Energy, utilities and resources | London

Fascinating day yesterday at the Financial Times Digital Energy Summit.  My key takeaways were, in no particular order:

  1. Slightly different views on what the key role the “digital community” had in enabling the energy transition but clear agreement that it was critical to enabling a step change in network capacity and managing flexibility/intermittency and the management of the broader system so that we can have more ‘clean’ energy when we need it without having to spend prohibitive amounts on grid reinforcement
  2. A sense from some participants that the problem of clean energy generation had been solved (!) and that the challenge was in the grid (see above point) and then the more ‘downstream’ challenges of heating and transportation.  The ability to integrate two way flows for customers and to aggregate and monetise flexible assets will be key.
  3. The value of data was now realised and in the BtB market, organisations who can help their customers optimise demand will be the market norm.  The organisation that wins in this market will be the one that can provide the most useful product in the simplest way for the customer to adopt.  Simplicity of offering and ease of fulfilment will be the determining factors in who wins.
  4. General agreement around the importance of creating digitally literate employees, a need to shift from being asset and process centric to customer centric but to be careful not to think that being ‘digital’ meant you were therefore being ‘customer centric’, they’re different.
  5. Running lots of Proof of Concepts (PoC’s) doesn’t imply digital maturity, maturity is using all the digital capabilities at your disposal right across the business and operation.  Attention was shifting now to Minimum Viable Products (MVPS) and to get them live as quickly as possible through the cloud
  6. Lots of talk of the cloud, and the processing power it was giving organisations, but also the consequential impact on cyber security.  Organisations were also trying to figure out what processing needs to be done in the cloud and what ‘edge processing’ should be done. Data transfer and security considerations being obvious key factors
  7. There was a fairly universal concern that regulation wouldn’t be able to keep up with the rapidly changing capabilities that technology was enabling
  8. There was general agreement that the challenge was not in analysing data, but getting the various sources of data together in order to be analysed and then operationalising actions from what the data tells you.

Overall, a very interesting day with my overall takeaway being the sentiment that much of the technology exists, whether it be generating technologies, aggregation or cloud based digital services to enable the energy transition.  But to enable this fundamental transition requires a macro uptake of the new technologies, grid level digital coordination and appropriate regulatory change, to get the power to the right place at the right time without huge investment in grid reinforcement, as well as enabling the unlocking of the new retail revenue streams that will grow as the new technologies (with the appropriate market structures and policies) become the norm.