2023 Predictions – How utility companies can put their foot on the gas to achieve net zero

7 minute read
Ordnance Survey has a track record of supporting the utilities sector with accurate mapping, addressing data and location services. Today utility companies, including electricity, water, gas and telcos, rely on OS data to support their operations and keep homes and businesses connected.

Across the sector, location data is used to manage energy networks with more informed asset planning, efficient maintenance operation and improved customer service. With up-to-date and detailed location data, utility providers and their third-party contractors can plan and maintain assets and networks more effectively. OS data provides unrivalled detail on road networks, terrain, rivers and every building and address in Great Britain.

Our geospatial expertise is also playing a critical role in supporting utility providers to achieve net zero targets and deliver innovative solutions to overcome global challenges in the sector.

What do you think will happen in 2023?

Next year we are likely to see increasing alignment between policy makers, regulators, utility companies and consumers on accelerating the path to net-zero and ensuring supply security and low energy prices especially with the cost of living crisis. We also expect there to be more emphasis on the actions individual consumers and businesses can make to conserve water and energy resources, driven by high prices and supply issues, with energy resource conservation likely to be an important focus in 2023.

This requires a combined approach with data, modelling and analytics playing a prominent role in supporting decision makers deliver on our climate commitments. OS is already helping organisations make better decisions by providing more data and better analytics to model the present usage of energy and predict the future demand. This will ensure the grid can cope with new demand and help support the planning process to speed up the build of an efficient energy infrastructure that will meet future needs and provide the best service and price for local businesses and consumers.

The new One Touch Switch (OTS) process launches in April 2023 and this will significantly ease the barriers to consumers switching broadband providers. It’s our belief that superfast internet will be the electricity that powers our future connected economy. We expect a rise in telecoms companies using location data to predict how local weather events might impact on superfast broadcast with 5G radio signals moving to even higher frequencies. OS is already working with local councils and the Met Office to build digital twins of cities to help establish what kind of mapping data is needed to deploy 5G connectivity and simulate the way that obstacles, from rainfall to trees, would interfere with high-frequency 5G signals.

With UPRNs (Unique Property Reference Numbers) acting as a unique alphanumeric identifier (a geocode) for every spatial address in Great Britain, we will see broadband providers make big efforts to implement data management strategies. This is where our Addressing APIs can ensure their customer data is compliant and fit for the new one touch switching process to work.

What do you think is going to be new (or take off) in 2023?

We’ve seen the use of data grow massively in the utilities sector. Companies are investing in sensor technology across their networks for new data as well as accessing new data streams from the smart meter rollout and from other organisations in their supply chain. High-frequency dynamic mapping is also of great value to utility companies for asset management because of its ability to assess the condition of an asset.

The National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) is an interactive digital map of buried asset data which aims to benefit organisations involved in underground utility excavations and improve the resilience of our energy infrastructure.

Location data is a crucial linchpin because having silos of data is useless unless you can link disparate data sets together. This provides the bigger picture and allows for better analysis which in turn can help companies improve efficiencies that will benefit utility providers, their workforce, and customers. A good example of this is the National Underground Asset Register (NUAR), an interactive digital map of buried asset data which aims to provide transformational change and benefit to organisations involved in underground utility excavations and improve the resilience of our energy infrastructure.

2023 will be a big year for data driven decision making and digital twins, combining real-world sensed data with analytical models to better understand consumption, predict change and design the networks of the future. What will be interesting is to see predictive analysis being used to build smarter demand models. Using location data has the potential to evaluate the number of addresses, usage type, availability of on/off street parking for electric charging points, while Earth observation data can be used to understand thermal efficiency of residential and commercial buildings and identify roof space for solar panels installations.

What’s likely to stay the same next year?

After a record year for temperatures and drought, 2023 will likely see climate change and sustainability continue to be remain a big focus for utility networks and how they can mitigate risk by better understanding the network and asset resilience from weather events such as extreme heat, flooding, drought, sea-level rise and wildfires.

With the constant pressure on energy prices and the drive towards net zero, government will be looking at continuously at the need to reduce or completely end the dependency on fossil fuels and explore alternative methods and ways to boost energy efficiency. OS data is already being used to model suitability for heat-pump installations to support a low carbon future and connecting new offshore wind farms to the grid. We are also supporting the gas sector with their move towards hydrogen and analysing where existing gas assets are located for conversion, where to install the new dedicated hydrogen pipes and identifying where customers are located to meet supply and demand.

Location data is a critical factor in maximising the potential of energy assets in specific locations across Britain. Utility providers use our data to locate existing assets and identify where new assets are required for towns, cities and rural areas because to reach peak efficiency the country needs to make the most of its assets, however small or remote.

What would you personally like to see change in 2023?

There needs to be more acceleration towards energy transition with a greater focus on data strategies to deploy zero carbon technologies. Policy, public spending, and the utilities industry need to be better aligned on the long-term strategy to reach net zero and promote schemes that are well thought out, deliverable, backed by government and focus on the long-term goals. The demand for solar electricity has rocketed in 2022 due to high energy prices. I’d like to see better data sharing so that policy makers and organisations have accurate data to make informed decisions such as identifying suitable properties for solar panels and supporting the rollout of smart meters.

This increased sense of collaboration and interoperable data sharing will also mean we can shift the focus primarily away from assets but think more about the needs of end users, particularly those that are in vulnerable situations so that support can be targeted in the event of a supply failure or other emergency. Northumbrian Water is already leading a project as part of Ofwat’s Innovation Fund that will involve designing, building and delivering a hub to securely host data on customers in vulnerable circumstances, so that the data can then be shared with other relevant utilities.

We shouldn’t forget that consumers have significant interest in adopting new energy products and services that supports the utilities sector path to a net zero future for Britain. This means we should be conducting an audit of the housing stock so we can evaluate the full task in hand and measures consumers can take to decarbonise the home.

Looking for utilities and telecoms services?

OS Connect offers expert consultancy and services for energy and infrastructure, telecommunications, and water sectors

Manage your assets better with OS location data to optimise telecoms network roll-out, maintain utility networks more efficiently, or simply streamline business operations.

Headshot of Chris Tagg
By Chris Tagg

Head of OS Connect