Smart Meter Energy Data Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG)

07 Feb 2019

This article is a guest post by Kieran Dodds.

Background

Convened by Sustainability First and the Centre for Sustainable Energy, the Smart Meter Energy Data Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG) brings together a broad range of public interest stakeholders in an important policy dialogue. Since our initial meeting in late 2017, we have been considering how smart meter data can be put to best use to further public policy goals and aid in the energy transition – and whether, and under what conditions, the data might be accessed by government and other organisations for public interest purposes while safeguarding consumers’ interests, including on privacy.

During this period, we have published a series of stimulus papers, research notes and presentations as background to discussion across our stakeholder workshops. These papers have set out clearly the varying stakeholder perspectives on smart meter energy data, including, in a report prepared by Ipsos MORI, on consumer thinking in relation to data privacy.

Improved public data: proposals

In turn, we have proposed some key public interest data ‘use-case’ archetypes. These include: improved national energy statistics; better data to support regional and local-level planning; better data to allow policy-makers to model the impacts of new policies; and, potentially, access to better sample data to enable better targeting and development of new services. Provided customer privacy concerns can be satisfactorily addressed, we have found that significant benefits could be delivered from the use of smart meter consumption data for such public interest purposes.

Developing a framework

In our most recent paper 7, we have set out a suggested framework to explore routes for accessing customer smart meter data for a public interest purpose. The UK faces a particular challenge in that it has no single database of smart meter data. We have therefore identified a number of potential sources for customer-level input data, including suppliers, distribution networks, the settlement system, and new parties. Were this input data to be suitably anonymised and aggregated through a ‘trusted processor’, there is the potential for a range of public interest applications, from national energy statistics, to better local infrastructure planning, to more targeted interventions for customers in vulnerable circumstances.

Smart meters - a "wake up call"

The work of the PIAG provides a wake-up call as to how usage-data from customer smart meters will usefully serve a myriad of new commercial applications – subject rightly to individual consent. But, at the same time, there is a risk that smart meter data might never be harnessed in the public interest. We have made the case that government, regulators, and regional and local authorities also need a ready route by which to access this data, and we are charting acceptable ways to do this. We have shown how smart meter data can indeed become a ‘public good’ aiding our transition to a low-carbon energy economy, but also that this requires concerted action by government, the regulator and other stakeholders.

What's next

Our final PIAG report will be published in the spring. This will be followed by an event to discuss our findings with a wide range of stakeholders. Those interested in finding out more about our work are welcome to get in touch. A list of contacts is available on our PIAG microsite, which also hosts all of the research we have published so far. It can be accessed at https://www.smartenergydatapiag.org.uk/.

Authors

Kieran Dodds is Research Officer at Sustainability First www.sustainabilityfirst.org.uk @SustainFirst