The Impact of Data Culture on Efficiency Measures

This post is written by Ian Steele, our Water Solutions Manager.

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This week, I was fortunate enough to attend the RICS annual infrastructure conference in London, where the focus of the day was all around data, digitisation and the potential impact it has on the industry, considering security and culture.

We’re starting to see much greater awareness of global trends and risks around climate change, as well as large migration into cities. Many of the talks throughout the day looked at how digitisation has the potential to manage these risks and unlock number of benefits, some of which have the potential to solve many of the problems we see at the moment.

What I found really interesting is that the challenge is the same for every scale and size you find your professionalism in, whether you’re in an energy consultancy with around 70 clients, or in charge of the Infrastructure Project Authority (IPA), managing a £600bn pipeline. Good quality data allows you to make better decisions across all aspects of your business, from helping customers to save money, reducing carbon and better managing resources.

Sharing Data is Key

Consider one of my current projects, where we are rolling out water AMR across a portfolio of sites.

When it comes to establishing a baseline, data is absolutely key.

You need it to be able to accurately monitor usage and be able to understand the impact you make by drive down usage through behaviour and asset retrofits – the simple addition of data is critical for saving resources and money.

Having lifted the chambers at two of the client’s sites, we discovered that the meters were already being logged by the wholesaler, unknown to the client. So theoretically, we should already have the data for these sites – great!

At least that’s what I thought when I asked the water wholesaler for permission to access this data, specifying that we are looking to drive down usage and fix potential leaks which would mean less strain on the network and generally a happier customer for them. A request that sounds logical and sensible enough, right?

The wholesaler’s reply… they don’t share data currently, but they would let me know if this changes in the future. Very frustrating!

The impact of not sharing Data

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It was only a few weeks ago that the Environment Agency published a report on the risk of water scarcity in England within the next 25 years.

One of the key components to solving this problem is data, but more importantly the access to it for analytics that enables better decision making.

This doesn’t require a huge step change – this technology is available right now and the demand is definitely there. In fact, the majority of people I speak with are looking for ways to change their behaviours to drive reduction.

 Realistically, all we need to do is change the culture around data to make this happen.

Many of the reasons behind withholding data are based on things like GDPR, data privacy, security, and the limitations of existing technology, but all of these issues can be resolved through strict processes, a clear understanding of who owns the data, what its purpose is and software updates.

More than just Water Efficiency

This isn’t just something that would benefit the water industry either, it has a massive impact on the energy industry as well. Data not only accurately identifies inefficiencies within any building across your entire portfolio, but it allows us to benchmark consumption performances, validate savings and optimise your systems for best performance.

Our data team had a case not that long ago where one of the sites was having data collected by a previous supplier, however the data wasn’t going anywhere. It wasn’t being sent from old supplier to new, it wasn’t being provided to the client and it definitely wasn’t coming to amber energy!

Because of the way that some Data Collectors obtain data, data can only be sent to a single point of contact – typically the party responsible for paying for the meter. As a result, something like 80% of DC will not provide data directly to consultancies and will instead send it to the supplier, who the consultancy then has to talk to for access.

Similarly, things like switching business energy suppliers, appointing new Data Collectors or technical faults can all create issues with the flow of data. This was the case with our client’s site where the data was being collected without being sent anywhere – a simple supplier change meant that the AMR stopped sending data to the relevant parties.

This really is just the tip of the iceberg with the data problems we see across the energy industry.

The solution

Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix but taking a data first approach would make a significant difference.

This isn’t just something that’s nice to have, it’s more efficient, highly practical and far better at delivering results than other approaches.

Having access to data and the ability to analyse it allows us to make informed decisions, provide advanced efficiency measures and monitor for any potential issues in real-time.

if you want to find out more about issues with data within the energy industry, please get in touch.

amber newsJoe Hickman