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A sustainable and secure digitalization of the energy system

By Mia Hem

How can the energy system be digitalized in a secure and sustainable way? One first thing to do is integrate the growing share of renewable energy through flexible energy systems that provide demand-side solutions and energy storage. This impacts the entire energy value chain, from production to transport, supply, distribution and consumption. The support of EU countries to promote the cooperation between digital and energy stakeholders is crucial for the digitalization of energy to better advance their political priorities, like the Green Deal and EU becoming part of the digital age.

With the transition from analogue to digital technology, there is a need for further connected, intelligent, efficient, reliable and sustainable technologies. These technologies must improve the way we use energy and help find solutions to leave a greener footprint when using information and communication technologies (ICTs), modern sensors, big data and artificial intelligence. At the same time, we must preserve high privacy, security, safety and ethical standards for cyber security. The digital solutions developed need an infrastructure that fits the future, with common standards, networks and secure clouds of current and next generations. A system like this will contribute to the consumers benefit from new ways of engaging with the energy transition and greater services based on digital innovations, as well as more efficient energy use and saving.

In October 2022 the EU Commission adopted the ‘Digitalisating the energy system - EU action plan’, a system-wide digitalization energy action plan which aims to support the EU energy policy objectives by supporting the development of a competitive, (cyber)secure, transparent and sustainable market for digital energy services. It establishes data privacy and sovereignty while promoting investment in digital energy infrastructure. The plan emphasizes how new technology increases efficient use of the energy resources, facilitates the integration of renewables into the grid, and saves costs for EU consumers and energy companies. Furthermore, it ensures that digitalization of energy is fully part of the green energy transition, consistent with the digital targets of 2030. The key actions of the plan to digitalize EU energy systems include increased customer control over energy use and bills through new digital tools and services, control over the energy consumption of the ICT sector (through environmental labeling scheme for data centers, an energy label for computers and measures to increase transparency on the energy consumption of telecommunication services), and strengthening cybersecurity of energy networks through new legislation (such as a network code for cybersecurity of electricity flows cross borders).

The European Commission promotes this transition through research and innovation projects by creating programs such as the Digital Europe Programme, Connecting Europe Facility, and Cohesion Funds. These innovative research programmes follow five key focus areas for energy and digitalization:

  1. Developing a European data-sharing infrastructure for new energy services.

  2. Empowering citizens by developing tools to support their participation.

  3. Enhancing the update of digital technologies in the energy sector.

  4. Enhancing the cybersecurity of the energy sector to meet real-time requirements

  5. Promoting climate neutrality actions for the IT sector.

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