From flex to the future of heating – the evolution of Open Energy’s third use case

Open Energy, a service that makes it easy to search, access and securely share energy data is being developed based on use cases. Taking this use case approach helps ensure the Open Energy service is  designed to address real-world problems put forward by industry stakeholders. 

The third use case from Open Energy’s Pilot phase focuses on the future of heating in the UK. It will illustrate how data sharing can support developers of new residential properties to install low-carbon heating systems that meet regulatory requirements in a cost-effective way. 

Government strategy means that, by 2025, all new homes will be banned from installing gas and oil boilers and will instead need to be heated by low-carbon alternatives that are less familiar and, in many cases, are likely to place higher demands on the electricity network. Residential property developers will therefore need to think more holistically about how to meet the heating energy demands of their developments. 

In the wake of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee’s report – Decarbonising heat in homes – which highlighted the scale, complexity, and cost of the challenge, the focus of our third use case is particularly timely. 

However, as is often the case with anything worth doing, we hit a few road bumps along the journey to this outcome. 

The starting point for our third use case

In Autumn 2021, members of the Open Energy Steering and Advisory Groups, including representatives from government, regulators, consumer bodies, trade associations and industry, identified potential areas of focus for new use cases. Broad areas considered during this process included electricity supply flexibility, electric vehicles (EVs), fuel poverty, heat pumps, smart meter adoption rates, and the transition away from domestic gas boilers/heating.

Following input from Advisory and Steering Group members, Icebreaker One prioritised flexibility in the energy market (or ‘flex’), as the key area of focus for the development of our third use case. 

The challenge with focusing on a theme, rather than a problem

However, flex as a theme proved challenging to pin down to a specific use case, for two key reasons. 

  1. It is a very broad theme, with flexibility arguably having a key role to play across multiple facets of the energy ecosystem. 
  2. Flexibility in the energy market, and how it can be delivered and managed, is still in the early stages of development. Thus, it has been challenging to identify real-world problems that better data access could help solve now (or in the near future). 

As an example of the latter challenge, one problem statement considered for development into a use case was as follows:

‘A flexible asset operator wants the ability to offer its available flexibility into the different markets for flexibility (ESO, DNO/DSO, wholesale suppliers, potentially peer-to-peer sales), and needs access to relevant data so it can sell its assets more effectively to those that need them.’

However, following discussion with key stakeholders, it became clear that a number of potential markets for the sale of flexibility are under development, or not yet in existence, and further work needs to be done around the regulatory and legal restrictions of managing such services in an evolving market. 

Thus, while it is certain that this is a problem that needs solving, the obstacles to progress are much bigger than data sharing alone can currently solve – though this may not always be the case.  

A slight shift in approach

A change in focus was needed. So, Icebreaker One pivoted its approach to consider the real-world issues that stakeholders in the energy industry are facing now and in the near future, and that the Open Energy service could help address.  

The future of heating leapt to the forefront, given the ban on the installation on gas and oil boilers in new properties is only three years away. The electrification of heating will place higher demands on the electricity network, and more complex modelling will be required to ensure regulatory requirements are met while keeping pressure on the network to a minimum.  

For residential property developers, this will involve not only establishing the most appropriate heating equipment for the location and property types, but also how demands on the grid can be managed through the installation of superior insulation, renewable sources of energy and – bringing us full circle to our original focus – equipment and systems to support flexibility. 

In this complex ecosystem, data will be key to working out the best solutions.

Open Energy’s third use case problem statement

Icebreaker One has therefore prioritised the problem statement behind our third use case as follows: 

‘A new residential housing developer (or an Mechanical & Electrical contractor operating on its behalf) wants to know how to reduce grid reliance and minimise grid connection requirements when building and kitting out new housing developments with energy technology (both the heating technologies themselves and renewable/flex resources that could reduce grid reliance) while still being in line with regulatory requirements. 

‘It needs data to be able to analyse the optimal combination of up-front costs vs reduction in grid connection in terms of overall cost of development.’

How can Icebreaker One’s Open Energy programme help?

Open Energy will make it easy for stakeholders across the industry to search, access and securely share energy data. This data can be open or shared (such as access being restricted to specific Data Consumers and/or requiring payment for accessing the data). 

Its service will enable residential developers (or those operating on their behalf) to understand the data available to help them plan the best heating solutions for their development, and to access and licence this data in a more streamlined manner. This will help property developers to:

  • Use the data to analyse options and establish the most cost-effective solution
  • Ensure their properties are sustainably developed in a way that is compliant with regulatory requirements around decarbonisation and keeps demands on the electricity network to a minimum. 

Help us develop this use case and make Open Energy a reality

Open Energy’s use cases are designed to demonstrate the value of the Open Energy programme and to catalyse innovation, by illustrating how better, more streamlined access to energy data can support specific industry needs based on focused, real-world problems.

To fully develop this use case, and help ensure it addresses the needs and concerns of potential Data Consumers and Data Providers, we would welcome feedback on:

  • The opportunities and benefits this use case presents
  • The challenges of implementation
  • The data required for implementation (including any specific, known datasets, whether open or shared).

If you have insights that could help us develop this use case, whether you’re a potential Data Consumer or Data Provider, please email

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