In early 2021, Switzerland adopted its long-term climate strategy in order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. The transport, industry and building sectors account for almost 90 percent of energy-related CO2 emissions. To reach its target Switzerland needs to strongly increase its energy efficiency and the production of new renewable energy sources.
Today’s energy challenges
With the development of renewable energy technologies, the production and consumption of energy becomes more decentralized. Electricity is not only produced in central power plants but increasingly in residential areas, for instance with solar panels on individual roofs. With decentralization, the system as a whole becomes more complex. As the supply of renewable energy is dependent on the season or weather, it has to be managed carefully, in order to fit different demand patterns. Energy storage technology will also play a part in the management of seasonal fluctuations of energy production and digitalization in the management of complexity.
An increasingly decentralized energy network also presents opportunities for new business models. Simultaneously, the growing number of new business models and market actors increases coordination efforts and need for new policies specifically in the field of data availability but also data protection and cyber resilience.
Data and Energy system
The case for better data availability
The availability of reliable and detailed data is key to overcoming obstacles of an increasingly complex and decentralized energy system. In fact, it is a fundamental precondition to the transformation of the energy sector and to reaching climate and energy goals. By improving our data availability, we increase our decision-making ability and boost much needed digital innovation.
A sound data basis can energize academic research and open up business for new products. By providing transparent data on energy costs and CO2 footprints, we can incentivize resourceful consumer behavior. Cost awareness through digital tools for example helps consumers to use their electricity when it is cheaper or cleaner and allows for smart investments. It is therefore essential that we improve the way we share data, its availability and the cataloguing of the data at hand.
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Data barriers to overcome
Today, the availability of good quality data is still limited. The obstacles on the national and European level are known: A low level of data interoperability, as well as a lacking legal framework for sharing and using data from different sources. This hinders collaboration and innovation in this area. An example of this are the data silos in the energy sector, in which companies keep their data locked. Connecting these silos would allow for a much clearer picture of the energy system.
Swiss Confederation’s efforts to increase data availability and transparency
Being aware of the existing data obstacles, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE) has launched initiatives, and is working on policies that improve data availability and transparency.
A fundamental change is introduced by the planned market opening as part of the revision of the federal electricity supply act. It will go along with the establishment of a national data infrastructure in the electricity sector with a national “data hub” as a core element for future data exchange. For the implementation, the SFOE takes into account relevant use cases. The data infrastructure shall hence ensure a high performance data exchange in the electricity (and eventually gas) market, easy data access for all parties, specifically for consumers and last but not least more transparency. As this project has a broad scope, the topics are also being discussed in the “dialogue platform on digitalization” set up by the SFOE. It is important to consider ideas, concerns and questions of stakeholders as early as possible when designing feasible solutions.
However, it will take time until such a data infrastructure is operational. Meanwhile, the SFOE, in collaboration with private partners, is driving initiatives aiming at improving access to data and information through innovative digital applications and platforms. Among them is the electricitymap.org, where users can query the real time CO2-intensity of electricity production and consumption in Switzerland. Another example is sonnendach.ch: With just a few clicks, users can estimate the solar potential of their building.
Related to this are the efforts to advance Open Government Data (OGD). OGD is not one single measure but rather a philosophy: Making data available to the public is a matter of governmental transparency. It can also stimulate innovation in the private sector by sharing large datasets of high quality. Regarding interoperability, the SFOE is evaluating whether to publish some of the ODG as LinkedData. This means interconnecting different datasets in the World Wide Web and thereby increasing information density in data.
In collaboration with the SwissEnergy program, SFOE supports open innovation events and Hackathons, where technically skilled energy and digitalization enthusiasts meet and develop bottom-up innovative digital solutions. These events raise awareness for the potential and value of energy data, create incentives for the private sector to share their data and design innovative digital applications.
In the field of cyber security, the SFOE has launched projects that assess resilience to hostile or malicious interference in the energy industry and work on recommendations.
Data will shape our future energy system. To achieve our climate and energy goals, we need reliable and transparent energy data as well as an adequate infrastructure furnishing it. There is a huge potential to improve the way energy is produced, consumed and shared. The SFOE is making great efforts in this domain, from international policy down to citizen platforms to assure the availability of the necessary data on all levels of society. However, the Confederation cannot do it alone. It will also take a strong commitment of all actors in the energy sector.
Benoît Revaz, Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE)
Benoît Revaz has been Director of the SFOE since 2016. Prior to his current position, he held various management positions in Entreprises Electriques Fribourgeoises (now Group E), EOS Holding, Alpiq Holding and E-CUBE Strategy Consultants.
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