Lack of data access and skills will impact local authorities’ response to climate emergency

Published: 25 January 2021

Three-quarters of UK local authorities have now declared a climate emergency but a snap poll has suggested the majority (60%) have difficulty accessing the data they need to make informed and effective decisions that will support the development of local energy projects that are key to achieving Net Zero.

Energy Systems Catapult understands most local authorities have access to a wide range of data sources such as; GIS data, housing data and energy data, that are needed to enable local energy project development and implementation. However, the level of granularity of the data and the lack of tools and expertise that are needed to analyse the data sets to provide the evidence and demonstrate the benefits these projects can deliver needs addressing.

While working with a number of local authorities to develop Smart Local Energy Systems (SLES), the Catapult has identified the need for both national and local initiatives not only to improve data access and availability but also to build or acquire the skills needed to process that data to inform investment and planning decisions.

Eric Brown, Chief Technology Officer at Energy Systems Catapult said: “Local authorities have a pivotal role to play in achieving Net Zero but they need access to data of sufficient quality and granularity to enable them to act successfully. Smart local energy systems will be an important part of this.

“Not only do they address climate objectives, but they can also deliver economic and social benefits and help build stronger, more resilient communities.

“Data is necessary to support good investment decision making and importantly this data must take both national and local perspectives if expected outcomes are to be delivered.”

Energy Systems Catapult has published a report Enabling Smart Local Energy Systems: The value of digitalisation and data best practice in collaboration with the SLES community. It identifies some key recommendations for local and national government, network companies and energy developers in the drive to Net Zero. These include:

  • The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the energy industry regulator Ofgem should support opening the data retained by the Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL) to business entities, as well as the establishment of independent open data institutions to broker access to commercially sensitive data. It is of strategic importance that these institutions also develop data standards for the industry.
  • Local authorities and Energy Network Operators should focus on making data as open as possible whilst protecting privacy and security. This open data triage would identify the opportunities and risks associated with data sharing, as well as standardise their data sharing conditions and licences. It is essential to create accessible systems, taking advantage of modern data sharing technologies to make their data more accessible and useful.
  • Local authorities should partner and collaborate across other regions, as well as with skills and resources within their areas such as universities, and organisations involved in SLES projects, to overcome the lack of skills, expertise and resources to collect, analyse and interpret data to provide insight on what projects are best suited to meet the net zero target.

Energy Systems Catapult is using the findings of this report to lead a Digital Working Group aimed at supporting local authorities to access the data they need to meet their net zero ambitions for their areas effectively in line with the recommendations from the Energy Data Taskforce.

A Local Energy Systems Toolkit is being developed to help local authorities overcome challenges in developing Smart, Local Energy Systems including how to access the data they need to make decisions.

 


 

Webinar 2 – Enabling Smart Local Energy Systems: People and Skills

This Energy Systems Catapult event will discuss the skills required to develop Smart Local Energy System projects, 2nd February 10am-12pm. Register HERE.

Webinar 1 – Enabling Smart Local Energy Systems: Digital & Data

Snap Poll 

The Energy Systems Catapult webinar Enabling Smart Local Energy Systems: Digital & Data (see above) with 40 local authority officers revealed that the majority, currently have difficulty accessing the data they need to make informed and effective decisions when developing local energy projects.