Why do we need data-sharing infrastructure for net zero?

Data is essential to net zero. It underpins almost all of the actions we need to take to get there: measuring emissions, putting in place low-carbon technology, and getting capital into the right places to finance the transition.

Almost all of the data we need already exists. But it’s not getting to the right places. 

Lack of trusted data flow leads to poor decisions that make it more risky and difficult to quantify and invest in the transition to net zero.

Better data infrastructure – like licensing, assurance, and security – will make it easier to make net-zero decisions at speed, with confidence and at a global scale. 

The world must be able to find, share and trust the data we need to get to net zero. That requires data-sharing infrastructure – and Icebreaker One is developing it.

A FOSDA/Icebreaker One analysis of net zero data brought this opportunity to life. It identified a series of data gaps and holes – problems with data availability, reliability and comparability. It found ‘hotspots’ of problems where data is too difficult to find or too difficult to trust – like energy consumption and production by source, greenhouse gas emissions, and supply chain reporting. 

This is why trust in data is one of the main areas for improvement highlighted in the EU’s July 2021 revised sustainable finance strategy, which aims to improve ESG ratings. 

This isn’t a challenge that needs new technology. Many attempts to consolidate data—new databases and portals—struggle to scale. We need to develop the rules of the road, not a new database. Unless we act now, we’ll let the opportunity to modernise slip through our fingers.

Who needs data-sharing infrastructure?

All Icebreaker One projects involve identifying use cases – specific examples of user needs around data access and use in order to achieve a particular net-zero outcome. They allow us to understand who needs to access data, what data they need, and the impact it could have. 

Three use cases from our projects illustrate the wide range of stakeholders who need better access to data to get to net zero.

Use case 1: getting more electric cars on the road

Just one electric car on the roads can save an average 1.5 tonnes of CO2 per year, according to EDF. But more than 30% of households in the UK cannot install at-home electric vehicle charge points, highlighting the importance of affordable and nearby on-street charging. 

Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) are an essential player in getting more charge points on the UK’s streets. Their connection departments are responsible for processing and managing requests to the grid for electricity in the here and now, as well as forecasting future capacity requirements so that they can prioritise where to invest in greater capacity.

They need to know when and where charge points will be installed (domestic, public, commercial and industrial), the nature of these charge points (slow, rapid, ultrarapid, for example), and how they are utilised. But there is currently no mandatory registration of installations, with data having to be pulled from multiple sources. Data on utilisation of different types of charge point and plans for future installations is even more patchy and problematic to access. 

They need data infrastructure that implements a Trust Framework , which automates data licensing, security checks, and technical integration. Using a Trust Framework, a DNO will be able to access this information more quickly and cost-effectively, accessing hundreds of datasets with just one round of authentication and technical integration.  This in turn helps them make sure that grid capacity can meet the demand from newly installed EV charge points. 

The trust framework also allows DNOs to collaborate more effectively with other industry stakeholders. As well as accessing others’ data, DNOs can publish their own data securely, safe in the knowledge that only authenticated users can access it. That will help ensure that the UK is able to meet its ambitious targets for EV ownership by 2030 and beyond. 

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Use case 2: making our homes more energy efficient

The energy consumption of existing buildings accounts for around 34% of the UK’s annual carbon emissions. What’s more, 80% of buildings in use today will still be in use by 2050, the same year we have pledged to reach our net zero emissions target. It is therefore evident that the decarbonisation of our buildings and homes through retrofitting is a fundamental requirement if we are to stay within the boundaries of the Paris Agreement. 

Data has a central part to play in realising these retrofitting goals. In fact, the looming task of making our buildings more energy efficient cannot be realised without data. Our Standard for Environment, Risk, and Insurance (SERI) programme recognised this when we designed a climate-ready building passport (C-RBP). The C-RBP is a tool for insurers to pool together data on the physical, environmental, financial, risk and regulatory elements of a building, and in doing so, provide a more well-rounded, accurate and timely view of risk. 

By improving the discovery, access and use of data with the C-RBP, insurers can more accurately price risk while incorporating climate change mitigation measures into their policies. This incentivises net-zero behaviours from their customers such as retrofitting. The impact of data goes further still, helping asset owners and investors align their assets with ESG regulations. 

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Use case 3: unlocking green finance to help small businesses cut emissions

There are more than 5.9 million Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the UK, accounting for around half of the country’s business greenhouse gas emissions.

But there is no common process to follow when reporting emissions, and many reports are based on inaccurate estimates. SMEs’ stakeholders like banks and corporate customers are therefore receiving low-quality data that is not comparable or actionable. 

To address this, Icebreaker One is working with Bankers for Net Zero to convene a cross-sector coalition – called Project Perseus – to build the data infrastructure we need to improve emissions reporting. 

Perseus will enable automated sustainability reporting for every small business in the UK, so that we can reduce emissions faster. It will make it easy to share accurate, assurable data that sits behind emissions calculations. It will inform investment decisions, enable targeted decarbonisation interventions, reduce reporting burdens and unlock green finance. 

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