Now you see it, now you don’t

Jinmi Macaulay, Director of External Communications at Smart DCC

For magicians, it’s a stock in trade: making something disappear before the very eyes of an audience. Whether the object be a simple playing card or Houdini’s famous elephant Jennie, the vanishing act is a test of the performer’s skill and can take years to perfect.
Now spare a thought for the communications professionals who attempt to do the reverse: make the invisible, visible. Take for example the task of explaining the importance of a critical piece of national infrastructure which you can’t touch or see, even though it connects to 99.3% of all buildings in Great Britain and has the power to transform our future.

When I took on my new role as Director of External Communications at the Data Communications Company last year, I knew that explaining its valuable work to stakeholders - including journalists and busy politicians - would be a challenge.

A connected energy system – that’s smart 
We don’t supply or install smart meters, but without the network, they wouldn’t work. That’s because the devices use our highly secure ‘pathway’ to connect consumers to their energy companies.  

Nearly 2 billion messages fly between households and suppliers every month; but the DCC never sees or keeps the data inside the messages, it simply transports it straight to the authorised users, who can decrypt and use the information to provide services to energy consumers, such as accurate billing. Billpayers can take advantage of National Grid’s Demand Flexibility Service if they are connected to DCC’s network: without a smart meter, they wouldn’t be able to access the benefits. Nor could customers easily switch suppliers to cheaper tariffs if we didn’t exist. Put simply, the DCC is the linchpin to a connected smart energy system. 

Busting myths with magic tricks (of the trade)
My job is to ensure that stakeholders understand the role this taxpayer-funded network plays as the country grapples with how to meet its net zero commitments and to increase our energy security. I also have to combat misconceptions and misunderstandings about the smart meter programme.

To do this, I am using all the public affairs skills – and magic tricks – I gleaned in a career which began in banking – building relationships, then took me to Parliament as a researcher and into policy analysis and formulation in the worlds of finance and latterly energy.

I knew when I began this role I had to return to basics: that meant the shoe-leather work of meeting my counterparts across the sector and patiently explaining to key journalists and politicians why DCC is such an important policy enabler as we work to balance our resources amid increasing demands for electricity. 

A national asset for a smarter, greener future 
I also knew I wanted stakeholders to understand the role our network can play in this country’s future: for example, how this data motorway can identify pockets of fuel poverty and improve our demand management as we buy more electric vehicles and smart home devices.

I understand the magnitude of the task: ensuring the DCC is understood by the right people in the right places so we can maximise the network’s benefits. But underpinning my team’s work is a simple motivation: the taxpayer helped build this network, and the taxpayer must reap the rewards.

I know I have my work cut out, but already the strategy is bearing fruit, including successful engagement with members of the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee at our control centre in Manchester. That after the DCC team winning two awards for our partnership work.

I might have some way before I become the Harry Houdini of energy communications, but I won’t stop until I make this invisible piece of infrastructure become a visible reality to our important audience of stakeholders.