Digitalising Europe’s energy sector – a proposed action plan

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The European Commission has proposed an action plan to advance digitalisation to support the Green Deal and other energy transition initiatives.

The proposal follows the July 2020 EU strategy for energy system integration, which called among key actions for a systemwide action plan to “accelerate the implementation of digital solutions and energy system integration across multiple energy carriers, infrastructures and consumption sectors”.

The proposal document states that the action plan will outline how different EU policy and funding instruments will work together to exploit the benefits of digital solutions in the energy sector while minimising their risks and environmental footprint.

Five focus areas are suggested, of which one is to develop a European data-sharing infrastructure to create a competitive market for energy services that value demand-side flexibility and support planning and monitoring of energy infrastructure.

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Another is to empower citizens by providing them with tools for participation in the energy markets, tailored data-driven services and implementing reskilling and upskilling pathways.

A third is to enhance the uptake of digital technologies in the energy sector by mobilising research, fostering innovation and making use of complementary instruments to support the scaling up of piloted solutions.

Others are to enhance the cybersecurity of the sector through alignment with other cybersecurity initiatives and to support the development and uptake of climate-neutral solutions for the Information and Communication Technologies sector.

Given the importance of digitalisation for a flexible electricity system and the growing electrification needed to reach the 2050 climate and energy objectives, the action plan also will primarily focus on electricity, while addressing other energy carriers such as hydrogen and natural gas, at least from an energy system integration perspective.

The digitalisation of the energy sector can bring a lot of benefits, but it also brings risks and challenges: An EU policy response is required to ensure that investments in digital technologies in the energy sector contribute to the Green Deal and to a Europe that is fit for the digital age, and to ensure that it contributes to a single market for energy and for data, the document states.

“In particular, policy measures are needed to ensure that new markets based on energy data are open and competitive, while respecting ethics, data protection and privacy and cybersecurity, with consideration to the specificity of the energy sector. The increased energy demand for ICT equipment, networks and services needs to be adequately managed in the context of an integrated energy system. Thus, digital and energy value chains need ever-increasing collaboration.”

The proposals are open to comment until September 10. Adoption by the EC is expected in Q1 of 2022.

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