It should be possible to use the data from millions of smart meters already installed in homes and small businesses to support public policy making and practice. But there are important gaps in making that possible – and perhaps the biggest gap is that there is no central repository providing simple access to aggregated or anonymised smart meter data, according to the Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG). The groups led by Sustainability First and CSE called for the data to be opened up and in particular the report concluded that government and industry should make use of gas smart meter data to help decarbonise heat.
In its final report PIAG says that without better demand-side data, BEIS and Ofgem risk ‘flying blind’ into the energy transition. Most GB energy systems planning is built on a weak foundation. It relies on simple estimated annual consumption – but in designing and managing the system the time when energy is used is becoming more important, with the rise of renewables and EVs and the growing focus on seasonal heat decarbonisation.
Utilities have increasing access to ‘time of use’ data but the regulator does not, so PIAG says the regulator suffers from more ‘information asymmetry’ in trying to oversee the industry, making it harder to monitor and evaluate new options such as time-of-use tariffs. Ofgem’s plans for half-hourly settlement have progressed with the potential, in principle, for an eventual gateway to smart meter data and meanwhile five out of six DNOs have also gained approval for Privacy Plans that enable them to start collecting anonymised half-hourly smart meter consumption data.
Lack of access to accurate and fine-grain gas and electricity consumption data at a local level is a barrier to local area energy planning, which is increasingly seen as a crucial component of the energy transition.
On heat, policy is being developed against “a complete paucity of demand-side data,” reflecting in part the low priority that has historically been attached to understanding gas demand, the report says.
Bolder steps ‘imperative’
Government and the industry have both seen the value of data and the result has been The Modernising Energy Data programme which followed on from the Energy Data Taskforce and includes the principle that energy system data should be ‘presumed open’.
shortly providing a clear direction.
PIAG says it is now “imperative that bolder steps are taken to push forward with making use of smart meter data for public interest purposes”. In advance of BEIS’s publication of an Energy Data and Digitalisation Strategy it called for
• BEIS Energy Statistics to be expanded to respond to users’ needs, with at least monthly metered consumption data alongside key metrics such as maximum demand.
• UCL’s Smart Energy Research Lab to be extended beyond 2022 and access widened. This database spans gas and electricity and links energy consumption to socio-demographic and other data. Sustainability First wants it to have longer term funding and access be extended beyond the academic community.
• De-personalised smart meter data held by DNOs to be treated as ‘presumed open’, including an obligation on DNOs who use of smart meter data for their own operational and planning purposes to comply with Energy Data Best Practice Guidance.
• Smart meter data to be used to ‘train’ models to improve the accuracy of current representations of energy demand and improve the models’ predictive value for different types of intervention.
Major push on gas
The study concluded that it was “Time for a major push by Ofgem, BEIS and others on gas demand data”. That was driven by the importance of heat decarbonisation and the scale of that challenge. The report said gas demand data should be used for analytical purposes. Ofgem and BEIS should revisit expectations about GDNs’ participation in Smart DCC, considering the interest that DNOs will have in accessing that data to help in planning for heat electrification. There are also immediate opportunities to widen access to existing data sources such as Xoserve profiles data
Finally the report said the long-term solution requires access by a trusted processor to a comprehensive source of granular smart meter data. “In taking decisions on half-hourly settlement or on the role of an independent system operator, doors should be kept open where those bodies might facilitate access to data for a public interest purpose in the longer-term. As well as extending use of system data and metadata, all parties are urged to consider what role they might play in making aggregated and anonymised smart meter data more widely available.”
The smart meter data Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG) was established in November 2017 by Sustainability First and the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE). The work was funded by Energy Systems Catapult, Greater London Authority, Elexon, Smart DCC and Electralink).
In Phase 1 it considered the consumer and wider policy context, looked at international experience and potential use cases, and set out an approach – building on models from other sectors – that could be used to provide smart meter data for statistical and research purposes.
In Phase 2 it demonstrated the additional value which smart meter data could contribute to the public interest, through a series of workshops looking at the use that could be made of aggregated / anonymised smart meter data to improve BEIS statistics, regulatory decisions, local area energy plans and heat policy.
Read the full PIAG report here