Systems architecture

Over the last quarter of the 20th century, the energy sector in the UK focused heavily on operational cost efficiency.

Despite the economic benefits, this also created major systems integration gaps – leaving those with key responsibilities effectively operating in silos (eg. generation, distribution, retail, consumer end use, etc..). As the transition to a low carbon energy system began in the 21st century, the rapid emergence of new technologies only embedded these silos, as companies work in isolation on new innovations. A radical overhaul of the UK energy system is required by 2050 and organisations need to operate with an unprecedented agility across the silos within a ‘shared ecosystem’.

‘Systems architecture’ is a discipline that creates and evaluates the full range of options for how this ‘shared ecosystem’ could work in the future. Already common in other sectors, the methodology of ‘systems architecture’ has led to the development of some the world’s most complex systems with properties emerging that are hugely beneficial, yet which no one could have anticipated in advance based on the work of individual silos (eg. Global Positioning System – GPS – enabled a revolution in navigation and the Internet enabled a revolution in global trade and social exchange). This is what ‘systems architecture’ will do for the energy system.

At the Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) we have a unique capability in this area, covering the three interrelated dimensions of ‘systems architecture’ integration for the energy sector:

  • Market systems architecture: focused on policy, regulation and commercial interactions between actors – for example, to internalise carbon cost, to protect consumers and to enable value exchange between actors with business drivers and actors with data and/or levers
  • Energy systems architecture: focused on physical interactions, dependencies and constraints in the end-to-end energy value chain such as frequency, voltage and pressure across the energy vectors of gas, heat, electricity and liquid fuels
  • Enterprise systems architecture: focused on the information infrastructures that enable communication within and between actors, with a particular focus on cyber-security

The ESC adopts a common methodology, which was derived from standard systems architecture practice used in other industry sectors. This methodology enables the ESC to help a very broad range of stakeholders in an open, objective and transparent manner, structured to help you build the insights and make the decisions relevant to your domain.

The ESC has implemented a world class toolset to support this methodology and to enable collaboration. We use Sparx Enterprise Architect to develop and maintain complex systems definitions across multiple organisations and Matlab/Simulink to model complex system dynamics across multiple organisations.

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