Stefan Leedham, director of Governance Services at ElectraLink, says the impact of lockdowns and social distancing present an opportunity for the energy sector to future-proof working practices.
The world is currently in a period of unprecedented challenges. COVID-19 has laid bare our reliance on technology, with many workplaces enforcing working from home due to social distancing. But with these challenges comes an opportunity for the GB energy market to examine how we work and interact with industry parties, and the wider energy network.
As we take this opportunity to examine our ways of working, we must also take into account the wider changes we are seeing across the energy market, including the increased expectations of our customers. Customer focus has now expanded beyond merely cost and security of supply to include issues such as digitalisation, innovation and decentralisation. This, combined with the fact that technological advances are developing faster than ever, means we need solutions that embrace digital ways of working, allowing for greater collaboration and engagement and utilising technology to promote innovation, competition and positive customer outcomes.
As a code manager, ElectraLink has taken steps to incorporate technology, such as video conferencing and live chat functions, but as an industry, the requirement to continuously improve codes to match the speed and efficiency of other markets is constantly being challenged. We are living in a time where we expect to access, influence and implement changes with immediate effect – the typical six-month plus change process timeline is no longer feasible.
To meet this challenge, our proposals include:
- A digital workspace – where the industry can collaborate effectively and quickly deliver innovations
- A digital code – where anybody can find the information that they require
- A central governance repository – ensuring that vital changes are secure and discoverable
- Change Clinics that bring together innovators and technical experts to drive fully understood and optimal change
- Sandboxes, such as the one ElectraLink manages for DCUSA, that provide a clear user journey with supporting information, guidance and code experts to take new entrants smoothly through the best innovation pathway.
We are the first code manager in the GB Energy Market to provide a digitalised industry code through the Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice (SMICoP). This went beyond purely transcribing the code into a digital format to one which provided a platform that improves the experience of those already engaged and ensures anybody can engage and not be confronted with a complex legal document presented in a PDF format. We hope that all codes will follow our lead and digitalise their codes enabling automated cross code collaboration.
Technology can provide for these significant steps forward and can also provide the means for better collaboration such as document collaboration platforms and virtual forums for further sharing and cross-sector engagement. In addition, as demonstrated through the current COVID-19 lockdown, it also means that we can move away from the default position where every meeting must be held face to face to one where meetings can be held virtually with zero impact on business as usual.
However, an efficient change process needs more than just technology. It needs a code manager who understands industry data, technology, people and rules. A code manager should provide a comprehensive and diverse knowledge base, as well as host collaborative efforts that bring together innovators and technical experts to meet the needs of the market and the end consumer.