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Britain's transforming energy system: a key enabler for net zero and social good

Following an award-winning 2023, Chief Strategy and Regulations Officer, Stève Hervouet, sets out his aspirations for DCC in 2024 and beyond.

Over the last decade, the Data Communications Company (DCC) has built the secure communications infrastructure that has underpinned the energy industry in rolling out almost 30 million smart meters to more than half of British homes.

This is helping consumers to manage their energy usage more efficiently and we estimate that over 1 million tonnes of CO2 are saved every year (this is the equivalent of taking a million cars off the road, an achievement we can be really proud of).

Our network is a critical part of the country’s energy infrastructure and I was delighted that key aspects of our work were recognised in recent months through two awards – edie Net Zero “Innovation of the Year” award for the uZero software developed with UrbanTide to help local authorities target measures to address fuel poverty ; and the IoT “Alliance of the Year” for our work with Vodafone to bring 4G connectivity to the smart meter network for many years to come.

We are determined to build on this success, and the question now is, how do we capitalise on this to maximise value in support of the smarter, greener, fairer energy system we all wish to see.

A pivotal role in the digitalisation of the energy system


As ever, our core focus is on maintaining the strong performance, security, and stability of the system. Security is a core strength of the smart meter network and is one of the reasons it could support other public services as a platform for policy implementation. Our award-winning partnership with Vodafone promises to enable the future flexibility and performance of the network, as communication hubs migrate onto the 4G network.

During 2023, an additional 5.5 million meters were connected to our network – meaning that over half of all British homes now have a smart meter installed. Having a smart meter unlocks important benefits for energy consumers – putting them more in control of their energy usage and giving them access to schemes which can save them money, such as the Demand Flexibility Service (DFS).

Now in its second year, the DFS is an initiative that is underpinned by smart metering, rewarding households and small businesses for using energy outside of peak hours - effectively reducing demand on the grid and cutting overall carbon emissions. In 2024 we’ll continue to work hard alongside our customers, the energy suppliers, to bring the important benefits of smart meters to even more homes.

Using smart meter system data to drive social value


As custodians of the UK’s largest nationwide telecommunications network, we are already playing a pivotal role in tackling the cost-of-living crisis by enabling schemes like the DFS. But we believe that the network has the power to do more - uZero is a fantastic example of the extended capabilities of smart meter data and the wider benefits it can have. We’re incredibly proud that the work we have done with UrbanTide in this area has been recognised and now we are looking to bring to life the powerful insights and societal benefit it can bring.

As highlighted in the Data for Good Strategy Paper published by Energy Systems Catapult in 2023, the use cases for smart meter data is huge. It can enable governments to achieve their policy objectives; it can contribute to low carbon technology deployment; it can provide greater insights into energy system performance; and it can assist device performance management – all through opening up smart meter data, in a manner that ensures and enhances consumer trust.

Increased engagement with our stakeholders

ESNZ visit

We operate at the centre of a complex ecosystem – at the intersection of Government, technology, telecoms and energy. We’ve continued to build stronger relationships with our customers, suppliers, and future users of the network, and we want to go further throughout 2024.

In January we welcomed MPs from the Energy Security and Net Zero Select Committee to our Security and Technical Operations Centre in Manchester to showcase how the smart metering system can support a more flexible grid for the future. As the Chairman, Angus MacNeil MP said afterwards, the benefits of smart metering could help save consumers money, the NHS money and ultimately significantly reduce carbon demand across Great Britain.

Such is the potential of smart metering that we are working with stakeholders from across the policy landscape to facilitate innovation in the design and operation of energy networks. This includes regional and local authorities, charities, academia, policy advisors and the private sector.

A vital cog in the transforming energy system


The DCC network is now an integral part of a transforming energy system. We deliver these improvements and run the service in partnership with our customers, the Government, and our Regulator. Energy consumers have already funded the creation of a secure communications network which is unprecedented in its scale and reach. Already established, highly secure, performing at scale - it is important that we maximise the value of a national asset and confront some of our greatest challenges, such as fuel poverty.

As I look ahead to 2024 and beyond, I am confident we will continue to use DCC’s network to help enable further Government policy objectives and provide consumers with greater flexibility and control over their own energy usage.

Together we have built a network that is helping transform our energy system, now let’s unlock its full potential to accelerate decarbonisation and drive social good.

Meet the author

Stève Hervouet

Chief Strategy and Regulations Officer

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