How Do We Get to the Grid of the Future?

Dan Travers
July 22, 2020 · @danieltravers
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Photo by Jaromír Kavan on Unsplash

How do you get all of those distributed energy assets talking to each other to enable the smart use of power around the grid, given the electricity grid is sometimes described as the most complex machine humans have ever built?

Well, you’ll need some very smart maths from fields like stochastic optimization and statistical learning to decide which devices should turn on and off and which times, keeping in mind many of these devices have a lead time to functioning so you need to anticipate the best decisions under all the uncertainty of the weather and human behaviour.

Secondly, you will need some super solid and reliable communications and control protocols. Knowing you want to activate a device is one thing, but reliably giving the message activate, and then hearing back from the device that it is operating as you instructed is a huge challenge on its own. And this technical issue has become political, with global governments being pulled into the 5G debate.

You will need a lot of data. Every device is potentially communicating not just daily, not hourly, but every second or even sub-second. You need to know where to find data, what generated that data, where it is and that you can trust and legally use the data. If you want to use data in your optimization models and your communications, the data from different devices have to be interoperable where possible, which means that anyone coordinating the use of two energy assets from completely different manufacturers needs to be able to speak the language of each asset. The more we can standardize the "language" spoken, the easier it will be for energy aggregators to efficiently marshal thousands of assets to manage supply and demand.

Lastly, and absolutely crucially, you need innovation. There are different ways to get innovation - a single organization could create the solution picture alone, but the energy system is so complex it would be a herculean task. I think history tells us that the best way to foster innovation is to incentivise as many people as possible to work on the problem and the community moves faster together.


The way society has most often managed innovation is through creating markets to allow the best ideas to come to the top. In recent decades we have seen open source movements also growing in importance as a way of delivering technological innovation. Both models are highly effective ways of distributing the problem. For either, the more people you can motivate and allow to engage in the problem, the faster you innovate.

What we are aiming to do with Open Energy is lower the barrier to entry for others to solve these problems by putting in place the framework for the energy data ecosystem to be built; not building the ecosystem ourselves.

We are designing a model for Open Energy which is as open as possible and relies on monopoly players as little as possible. Monopoly providers will likely become bottlenecks in the future. Open Energy will provide the framework to make energy data discoverable and usable under appropriate licences. Open Energy will facilitate making the data interoperable across the system and integrating data from other industries by providing tools to overcome the "language" barriers.

What is the balance of government regulation versus free market?

In any market or community there is a place for government incentives and regulation. The Open Energy framework is agnostic towards how much regulation is applied. We are preparing for a model where free market incentives operate, but equally where regulation can be easily introduced to "nudge" monopoly data owners to make data available. By dropping barriers to entry, reducing friction and minimizing the footprint of a centralized architecture, we believe innovation will flourish.

To find out more about Open Climate Fix’s collaboration with Icebreaker One and PassivSystems read more here.