Everoze’s 5 recommendations for approaching DSO services

July 2019

Felicity Jones presents Everoze’s thoughts on local flexibility services – responding to a milestone UK consultation by the Energy Networks Association.

In a nutshell, we recommend decarbonisation, rapid feedback loops, disruptive data, deeper engagement, and inclusive leadership

Have you seen it? The Energy Networks Association (ENA) has published a landmark Flexibility Consultation, seeking views on its flexibility commitments – with a particular focus on DSO services. There’s a great summary here, thanks to Liam Stoker.

At Everoze, we don’t often respond to big picture consultations like this. Our typical role in flexibility services is helping investors with due diligence, or supporting developers to access new revenues, or helping innovators with strategy & modelling.

But this time we’re eager to put our views on record. We see how open the ENA are to our feedback, and feel this could genuinely shape the future of GB flexibility markets. So we have five core recommendations, each detailed further below.

  1. Embed decarbonisation as a guiding principle – not just as background context
  2. Recognise the disruptive power of data – open to data-driven reform, not just tweaks
  3. Deploy rapid feedback loops – listening and responding, not just reporting
  4. Experiment with engagement techniques – seeing industry as co-creators, not reviewers
  5. Demonstrate inclusive leadership – enabling diversity, not just traditional backgrounds

We’ve been grateful for opportunities to informally discuss these topics with various ENA reps; this blog formalises our response.

Our 5 recommendations

1. Embed decarbonisation as a guiding principle – not just as background context

We’re heartened to see reference to net zero targets in ENA documents. But we advocate sending a stronger signal towards procuring services from low-carbon flexibility technologies. These options include smart heating controls, EV charging, batteries and solar. Decarbonisation should not just be seen as the backdrop to the DSO transition – but a fundamental guiding principle, of the same status as the ENA’s other six principles/’steps’. We must move beyond seeing flexibility technologies as mere enablers of a wider low carbon energy system, towards seeing them as high/low carbon options in their own right.

2. Recognise the disruptive power of data – being open to data-driven reform, not just tweaks

We believe that the data revolution, and the conclusions of the Energy Data Taskforce, are fundamental to the future of DSO service procurement. For instance, we can see how the data revolution might transform testing for flexibility services; this view is informed by our experience as Independent Engineer for over half of the UK’s Enhanced Frequency Response battery projects. In particular, the huge dataflows from domestic DSR might mean scrapping upfront testing in favour of real-time, automated, operational performance monitoring. A stochastic, portfolio approach will also be key. DSOs need to be genuinely open to the disruptive power of data – even when this challenges the old way of doing things.

3. Deploy rapid feedback loops – listening and swiftly responding, not just reporting

Earlier this summer, Everoze published the report #Swarmgovernance as part of the Core4Grid project. Informed by the rapid change seen in our energy system, our report recommended three governance principles: (1) lean rules, (2) trials in the field, and (3) rapid feedback loops. Whilst the ENA is showing progress on (1) and (2), we believe that the third principle on rapid feedback loops requires urgent attention. We recommend an agile approach to decision-making – which seeks to swiftly respond to empirical data as it emerges, rather than trying to form fully comprehensive plans upfront. This represents a substantial cultural change.

4. Experiment with engagement techniques – seeing industry as co-creators, not reviewers

We note that Open Networks events can tend to take the format of one-way presentations reporting progress, followed by brief Q&A. The Advisory Group can feel like an audience, moreso than a group of participants. More interactive workshop approaches would help – where participants do 80% of the talking, and the ENA is merely facilitator; I personally learned a lot from Graham Oakes on how to do this in our recent domestic DSR workshop. More creative communication methods could be explored too. But more fundamentally, we recommend embedding industry and innovators more directly within the delivery of the Open Networks project itself – not just acting as reviewers.

5. Demonstrate inclusive leadership – enabling diversity, not just traditional backgrounds

I can’t be the only one who has attended energy sector events and wondered why there are so few female presenters. Embracing technology and business model diversity is going to be essential in the DSO transition; we believe this is easier if leadership is more diverse too. Diversity doesn’t just mean gender; we mean diversity in the broadest sense. For instance, we recommend an interdisciplinary team – spanning not just electrical engineers, but psychologists, consumer experts, data scientists, economists and more.

These are five big, systemic recommendations, and Everoze is eager to help make them a reality. Let’s swarm on solutions to put these five recommendations into practice.

The distributed energy transition depends on it.

(image: Partial screenshot of front page of Open Networks Flex Consultation)


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