In December 2019, Icebreaker One was presented at COP25 in Madrid. In the four years since then, we’ve undertaken projects spanning the fields of energy, finance and water, maintaining one common and integral thread  – that the discovery, access and use of data can markedly accelerate our journey to net-zero. 

Now, in the lead up to COP28, with a climate emergency on our hands, we want to reinforce this common thread, highlighting why our work is more pertinent than it has ever been. In order to achieve this, we’ll be revisiting past use cases. These demonstrate our action led work, showing the potential impact better access to data can have, and its critical role in keeping us within the boundaries of the Paris Agreement. 

Electric Vehicles & Net Zero

Just one electric car on the roads can save an average 1.5 million grams of CO2 per year, according to EDF, demonstrating the value of Electric Vehicles (EVs) in helping the UK to meet its net-zero targets. And yet, if the UK government wants to reach its net-zero goals and fulfil its commitments to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars/vans from 2030*, there needs to be an uptick in demand for the adoption of EVs.

One of the biggest barriers for EV up-take is a perceived lack of infrastructure (according 57% of drivers). What’s more, 30% of households in the UK cannot install at-home electric vehicle charge points and forecasts suggest that at least 280,000 to 480,000 public charge points will be needed by 2030. This issue isn’t isolated to drivers either, as satisfying the demand for on-street charging poses a significant challenge for both local authorities and Distribution Network Operators (DNO’s). 

The integral role of data

So what is the potential power of data here? And what kind of problems can it solve? On a macro level, improved access to data will help the industry identify gaps, aiding the roll out of thousands more electric vehicle charge points across the UK. Dissecting this further, DNOs require data to understand the installation and utilisation of EV charge points. With better data, DNOs will be able to supply more useful insights to organisations looking to install charge points. What’s more, better data on the demand for EV’s will put pressure on local authorities to take action. This collective improvement has the potential to accelerate the UK’s chargepoint rollout, opening up the market and encouraging the adoption of EV’s across the UK.

Icebreaker One’s influence

Our Open Energy program aimed to assist DNOs in accessing the essential data needed to improve their services and accelerate the adoption of EV’s. The team identified a number of data points including but not limited to: information on public and domestic chargepoint locations, usage patterns, future installations and demand projections. These data points come from a variety of sources, namely: chargepoint operators, manufacturers, local authorities, and third-party data providers. 

Using Open Energy, a DNO would be able to access hundreds of datasets with just one round of authentication and technical integration.This improved and more cost-effective access to data would help make sure that grid capacity can meet the demand from newly installed EV charge points.

‘To ensure we are ready to service increasing numbers of fuse upgrades and potential network reinforcement where aggregate demand from EVs has the potential to exceed local network capacity, we require insight into potential and actual charge point installation and utilisation. The provision of data from a variety of stakeholders is key in this respect and the Open Energy programme has the potential to streamline processes to help meet this need and the challenge of delivering an electricity infrastructure that is fit for the future.’  Matt Webb, Head of Enterprise Data Management at UK Power Networks. 

Developments since the Open Energy use case

One year on from the Open Energy use case on electric vehicles, there has been progress at a governmental and regulatory level. And while the UK is said to be on track to meet the Government’s target of 300,000 new electric car chargers by 2030, a focus on data needs to be maintained in order to keep momentum and get us to net-zero. 

The UK government has recently published new regulations for public charge points aimed at improving the charging experience for EV drivers. Within these new regulations is a focus on open data with the Government stating that all public chargers will have to provide real-time information on their status for free, which will benefit mapping tools.
Elsewhere, in a recently published policy paper named ‘Charging Ahead: Using location data to boost local EV chargepoint rollout’. The Geospatial Commission has urged local authorities to make full use of location data in the rollout of charge points for electric vehicles (EVs). As a clear example of better data aiding the roll-out of charge points, the commission intends to help councils make decisions about where to install the charge points.

*On September 28, 2023, the UK government revised its plans with all new cars to be zero emission by 2035.