The first Energy Bill since 2013 – setting out the Government’s provisional framework for delivering a cleaner, affordable and secure energy system – was published this month against a backdrop of homes and businesses feeling the profound impacts of the gas crisis feeding through to their bills.
It’s no surprise then that we are seeing customers seeking out immediate and low-cost ways of taking control of their energy usage, and as such, demand for smart meters and smart home technologies is steadily increasing.
This trend prompted Energy UK and others in the energy industry to think about what we can learn from the smart rollout as we deliver other low carbon technologies. We asked five expert panellists to join us last month to explore it further in an Energy UK breakfast briefing attended by a virtual audience of 70 industry players.
The panel’s expertise in data management, building physics, product innovation, delivery, the retail energy market and campaigns - combined with targeted questions from the audience - drove a wide-ranging discussion and drew some interesting conclusions.
Smart data offers a great resource to customers and innovators, but customer access could be improved
We have an asset we can be proud of – a world-leading, secure data management infrastructure which is delivering high-quality, high-frequency data. This data is incredibly useful to innovators and researchers and can support the move to a more secure, reliable, low-carbon system. It can, for example, be used to improve the management of the networks we already have, as well as to identify how and where we will need to scale up electricity capacity as network operators start the transition to becoming system operators.
But the full benefits of smart on this score - and others -won’t be seen until the market-wide rollout of smart meters is complete.
And for this to happen we first need customers to see smart as relevant to them.
Projects are underway which enable additional sensors to be joined to the Smart Meter Home Area Network which will allow the installed infrastructure to send monitoring data through the network and to cloud platforms alongside smart meter data. This could include connected living devices, for example, or air quality measurements.
We can learn lessons from other sectors, too. Open banking, for example, shows how highly sensitive information can be aggregated and shared securely.
Business owners were noted as having a particularly strong use for smart data, as thist can help business owners manage their premises (for example by identifying moisture problems through their heating use).
Success means taking customers with us
Without active participation from customers, a low carbon system will not reach its full potential. This means putting more control and choice into customers hands in a way which fosters understanding, interest and trust.
Clear and accurate consent protocols - and straightforward guidance on how customers can access and use their data – form an important part of this, with consumer bodies providing impartial advice and supported by consistent, positive, clear messaging from industry and government.
Analysis of recent campaigns shows that the bigger picture can be compelling, and we must provide an understanding of how this data can benefit the system more widely, linking smart to low carbon technologies.
Smart technologies must evolve with innovation
A panelist who was part of the original discussions with BEIS on a smart meter rollout back in 2013 observed that the smart offer has evolved from delivering straightforward remote meter reads to highly functional meters and premise-level data which we’ve never had before.
Innovation moves quickly and, if done right, gives us the opportunity to help customers in new ways – from using their car battery as storage, to identifying and protecting at-risk customers, as well as allowing us to live longer in our own homes.
While we are at the beginning of the long journey towards a complete net zero homes and transport system, our experience of the smart rollout and access to the data we already have could mean we already have a headstart.