WHAT Data exchange and energy efficiency
WHO Elering, electricity and gas transmission system operator (TSO) in Estonia
HOW Implementing the Estfeed energy data exchange platform based on X-Road
Energy efficiency, renewables and consumer centricity figure among the lines of action to boost the transition towards cleaner energy systems - ways of producing, delivering and consuming energy in a more sustainable way. In the framework of a global call to action, the European Union has established targets related to these main areas in its Clean Energy for All Europeans package. However, commitment to the common good consists not only of great objectives, but also of tools that effectively allow us to reach them.
The deployment of information technology has a significant impact on the feasibility of contemporary policy actions. Elering, the Estonian independent electricity and gas transmission system operator (TSO), has decided to rely on the X-Road technology to create Estfeed – the solution for data access and exchange on Elering’s smart grid platform. Kaija Valdmaa, Project Manager of Estfeed at Elering, tells us how innovation represents a potential meeting point between environmental sustainability, active participation, and cost efficiency for consumers.
Background and institutional framework
The mission and main purposes of Estfeed as an energy data exchange platform are entrenched in the history of Elering as a company. The approval of the Third Energy Package (2009) by the European Parliament pushed for the liberalisation of national energy markets. The Government of Estonia opted then for founding Elering already in January 2010, separating the company from the production and sales activities of Eesti Energia. The duties and competences of Elering focus on the security of energy supply, and the management of the Estonian electricity and gas system in real time. Through activities of market monitoring and research and development, the company also contributes to policy formulation through expertise and technical know-how.
Elering was already part of the Estonian national X-Road environment X-tee, which gave ground to the creation of Estfeed. The amendments brought to the Electricity Market Act (2003) in 2014 and to the Natural Gas Act (2003) in 2017 were meant to facilitate market competition and foster information exchange. As a result, regulations contributed to give Elering further legitimacy on legal grounds to develop the Estfeed data exchange platform.
More recent EU-wide developments – such as the GDPR regulation and the provisions of the Clean Energy package – contributed to the ongoing refining of Estfeed’s tasks and prerogatives towards becoming the energy data exchange platform for the whole EU. Operative since September 2017, Estfeed ensures smart meter data access and management in Estonia. Third parties that would not have access on a legal basis, like suppliers, app developers, and consumers, can now access consumer smart meter data – if users have previously granted access rights to the specific service provider.
Needs and challenges
Estfeed is located at the intersection of the needs of consumers (data owners), energy service providers (data users) and meter data hubs (data providers). With the amount of data generated on consumption, production, and transmission, effective information management is the key to systemically increase the efficiency and reliability of the energy system. Consequentially to such improvements, app developers and Elering itself can provide further customer-friendly e-services for citizens to keep track of their electricity or gas consumption and production data.
For this to happen, the presence of smart meters in offices and households needs to become the norm – a target achieved in Estonia by 2014 already, with 100% coverage. But as Kaija Valdmaa points out, “In the energy sector, challenges are not anymore about building new physical grids, but about their smart management, especially because of the increase in renewables, distributed production and service provision.” With all the changes witnessed in the energy sector, “the market requires accurate and real-time data to be more and better accessible,” Valdmaa continues.
Though Estonian regulations already granted market participants the possibility to access data by law, universities, research centres, and app developers also wished to join the network. However, providing them with this chance was not stated in any kind of legal act. Based on such elements, the resulting research project initiated by Elering identified X-Road as a feasible solution to the challenge. Features like secure data exchange, and organisation and machine-to-machine level authentication, are provided by X-Road out of the box. In addition, the Estfeed consent management system (built on top of X-Road) monitors and grants third parties access to users’ information, as citizens remain the owners of their own data.
Active since September 2017, Estfeed is capable of harmonizing energy data access for companies, developers, and citizens for an efficient management of energy meter data in a trusted, GDPR-compliant environment. It also allows consumers to participate in the energy market – an essential goal in the Clean Energy Package - using smart services like consumption management, providing flexibility services to the transmission grid through the aggregation of many consumers.
The platform developed by Elering is based on the X-Road technology. It features high security standards in access and authentication, interoperability, efficiency in information exchange through standardization. “The decision to choose X-Road in the first place was not a technical matter, but about the business value of the technology. Thanks to reliability, transparency, the certification and transaction systems, X-Road could offer the trust and credibility needed to develop our own platform,” Valdmaa explains.
Furthermore, the e-Elering portal – as the front office of Estfeed´s consent management system – gives customers the possibility to check, compare, and grant third parties access to personal energy metering data through 14 different services. All while in the background, the Estfeed platform exchanges and manages data hubs and sensors information seamlessly. In its main functionalities, Estfeed enables:
Data access and sharing;
For end-consumers, the possibility to check consumption and production information, as well as to authorize third parties to access their meter data;
The endurance of a central platform for the efficient management of electricity and gas meter data access.
In an integrated European framework, TSO-s are also tasked with the role of managing inward and outward fluxes, as well as data access. Elering and Estfeed stand as an example of how information technology can help monitor and redistribute energy resources. It means working for the common good in two ways – cutting costs for citizens and caring about the environment.
Author: Federico Plantera