Digital twins have long been spoken about as one of the key solutions benefiting from the increased digitalisation of systems, empowering their users with the information and insights they need to make more informed decisions.
The Energy System Digital Twin Demonstrator Project led by the Energy Systems Catapult explored the feasibility of creating a digital twin of the energy system, which would be able to provide in-depth analytical information on the system, while also being easy to interact with for both technical and non-technical users.
To decarbonise the energy system by the year 2050, it is crucial that decision-makers are equipped with the insights they need to ensure their decisions are effective and influential.
The challenge of providing relevant and timely information is compounded by the increasing decentralisation of the energy system, with more assets interacting with it now than ever before. These assets are increasingly under the control and monitoring of digital systems, making available valuable streams of data on the real-time status of the system. This enables decision making relating to the longer-term strategic decarbonisation policy environment.
The Energy System Digital Twin Demonstrator Project produced two demonstrators to begin to paint a picture of how digital twins could be used to support decision-making within the energy sector. An analytical version for technical users, and the visual element of twinning for non-technical decision-makers, to give the assurance needed that the modelling makes sense.
These two aspects have been addressed by creating two proof-of-concept digital models, one focused on visual presentation and one on technical functionality. The visual presentation vividly shows the impact that policy decisions are likely to have on the decarbonisation of domestic properties. The demonstrators show illustrative values for metrics related to the UK’s decarbonisation activities, representing the effects of policies as changes to uptake and usage of energy-related technology types, at both a household and a national level, while also giving the user the ability to ‘travel’ backwards and forwards in time, to see changes in the energy system play out in front of their eyes.
1. The Visual Demonstrator was developed in a collaboration between Energy Systems Catapult, The Alan Turing Institute and CityScape Digital, and provides compelling and accessible visualisations of outputs from the BEIS National Buildings Model using a visual interface written in the Unreal Engine 3D graphics system. This demonstrator provides users with the ability to explore how policy decisions will impact the UK at a national, regional and local level in a much more intuitive way than the current suite of models allow.
2. The Technical Demonstrator developed by Energy Systems Catapult and CityScape Digital explores how some of the current suite of spatially and temporally disaggregated models can be interconnected to visualise modelling results under a variety of user-selected scenarios.
Further work is needed to ensure that the outputs meet user needs and augment the portfolio of pre-existing modelling tools. This project highlights that questions remain around the technical and privacy challenges associated with granular data ingestion and how these should be appropriately mitigated within digital twin solutions, in order to provide full benefit to users.