Flanders aims to have digital electricity and gas meters installed in 80% of Flemish households by the end of 2024. The data from these digital meters will be essential for making our energy use smarter, greener and more economical in the future.
After successfully setting up the core infrastructure for the digital meter chain and realising the first cloud implementations to unlock the digital meter data, with the help of various partners, Flemish grid company Fluvius was looking for a scalable data cloud platform. Thanks to Cegeka, Fluvius has the know-how they need to develop a future-proof and scalable platform that is ready to handle all digital meter data in the future.
The European Union is aiming to significantly reduce CO2 emissions in the coming decades, becoming fully climate-neutral by 2050. The energy sector has a key role to play here, explains Willem Balliauw, project lead at grid manager Fluvius: ‘We are rapidly moving away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy sources. We are moving from centralised to decentralised energy production and from purely physically powered energy networks to digitally controlled networks. Within this new landscape, the importance of energy data is increasing significantly.’
The role of the energy sector is also determined by European regulations, along with a strict schedule. In Flanders, Fluvius is tasked with rolling out digital meters in the near future. The built-in communication system of these meters can send consumption data for electricity and gas independently and more efficiently, which also facilitates the introduction of new services in our future energy landscape. This will enable end customers to better manage their energy flows.
More and more data
By the end of April 2022, 1.6 million digital meters had already been installed in Flanders. All these meters automatically transmit daily volumes and, for end customers who explicitly permit this, quarterly data as well. This amounts to 5.3 GB of meter data on a daily basis, or 2 TB annually. With the further rollout of digital meters and a more intensive use of quarterly data, this figure is expected to increase exponentially.
‘The large volumes of data we were receiving as Flanders’ energy data manager presented us with quite a few challenges,’ says Willem Balliauw. ‘In addition, new services such as energy sharing are coming in, which will create a need for complex calculations across geographically dispersed metering facilities. So we decided to look for a new and scalable platform in the cloud.’ Halfway through 2020, Fluvius issued a tender for the ‘Metering Data Calculation Engine’ (MDCE), which was won by Cegeka.
A speedy delivery thanks to an agile approach
Fluvius had to move quickly to meet the high expectations of end users and service providers, but also because of political objectives. ‘We opted for an agile project management approach, which is something we stipulated in the tender,’ says Willem Balliauw. ‘We had some experience with agile methods, but not as much as we have now. It was a learning process for us, which we embarked on together with Cegeka. The “shared leadership” model that Fluvius chose is embedded in Cegeka’s DNA as a result of their many years of experience with agile working methods, which proved to be a reinforcing factor. This model produced self-organising multifunctional teams that were able to deploy their knowledge, skills and creativity quickly. And it paid off: in less than six months, we had our first MDCE rollout, and this was in the middle of the Covid pandemic when everyone on the team was working from home.’
Future-proof cloud reference architecture
The new data platform was set up in the Microsoft Azure Cloud, which allows integration with several of the business systems used at Fluvius. Azure Databricks was used in order to scale all the business rules in the MDCE. This data-analytics platform can grow along with the rollout of the digital meters. The APIs were developed by using Azure Service Fabric.
Cegeka used its cloud reference architecture in order to set up the data platform, combining industry best practices with insights from Cegeka’s many years of experience. This ensures the data platform is reliable, sustainable and future-proof, and adaptable to the customer’s needs at any time.
Plenty more to come
Families can now gain insight into their energy consumption thanks to digital meters. This allows them to quickly identify unnecessary power consumption and to make smarter and greener use of energy. Several external stakeholders such as technology companies, but also energy and data suppliers, have already developed new services based on digital meter data that raise end-users’ awareness and help keep energy bills under control.
“The high degree of transparency of large amounts of granular data in a secure digital environment makes this an enormous challenge for Fluvius. We now have a single integrated central data platform enabling us to make the data available for multiple parties in a secure manner.”
Willem Balliauw, Project Lead at Fluvius
The new cloud data platform is an important foundation as Fluvius takes its next steps in its data driven transformation. ‘We now have a single integrated central data platform, which lets us make data available for multiple parties in a secure manner. More obligations are coming our way at lightning speed, and we need to be able to respond quickly. With this future-oriented architecture, we are ready for whatever comes next,’ says Willem Balliauw.
‘However, the challenges are still great, and we still need to get out of our comfort zone every day in order to meet the data demands of tomorrow,’ Balliauw continues. ‘We are very happy that we have Cegeka as partner to support us in this endeavour. They are the reason we keep innovating and evolving.’