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PIAG Phase 2: Unlocking the public interest benefits of smart meter energy data

'Data is key to making informed policy choices, but current provisions for access to smart meter data for a public interest purpose leave policy makers at risk of "flying blind" into the energy transition.'

The Smart Meter Energy Data Public Interest Advisory Group (PIAG), a landmark joint project convened by Sustainability First and the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE), last summer published its Phase 1 final report.  This contained a number of important recommendations for energy companies, regulators, and policymakers – not least that to fully equip themselves to manage the energy transition and deliver crucial public interest benefits, greater access to more granular consumption data from smart meters will be required.

Following the launch of the report in July 2019, the appetite for Sustainability First and CSE to build on this body of work has become clear, with PIAG participants consistently highlighting the need to demonstrate the 'additionality' that such access to data can bring to policymakers.  With this question in mind, PIAG Phase 2 has been launched, since hosting a scoping meeting of involved stakeholders in December 2019 and a first full workshop in January of this year.

Cognisant of the need to build a greater evidence base for the conclusions contained in the Phase 1 report, the second stage of the project will consist of four targeted workshops aimed to highlight public interest 'user-cases' in relation to how smart meter data might be better utilised.

The first PIAG Phase 2 workshop therefore focused on how official energy statistics produced by government departments such as BEIS and MHCLG – and which underpin many important models and policies – might be improved through greater access to smart meter data, and the improved insight that could follow.  PIAG will also be holding workshops focused on the benefits that this could bring firstly to Ofgem or other regulators and national advisory bodies such as the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) or National Infrastructure Commission, and also to devolved, regional, and local government.  A fourth workshop will then tackle how improved access to better customer-side data could help to unlock some of the challenges associated with heat decarbonisation.

To aid the focus on the additionality greater access to the data could bring, we are asking key stakeholders to answer in detail through the workshops four central questions:

i.  What customer-side usage data is available now – and what main published datasets and data sources are informed by this data?

ii.  What new usage data is expected to become more widely available in the short- to medium-term (e.g. monthly meter data, settlement data, Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL) data, or new data from major pilots and trials). From your standpoint, how far might that additional data improve upon existing sources? How far might that data be an effective 'proxy' for granular smart meter data? 

iii.  What might a national half-hourly smart meter usage dataset offer in addition to any such new usage data?

iv.  What additional public interest benefit might be delivered if customer smart meter usage data becomes available (i.e. as output data via a trusted processor)? What major public interest data 'gaps' could a national half-hourly smart meter dataset fill (e.g. on fairness, vulnerability, fuel poverty, distributional impacts, or net zero)? Are there public interest benefits at risk of non-delivery absent a national half-hourly dataset?

At their core, these asks are designed to tease out the fundamental policy question of smart meter energy data's 'additionality', namely:

Against currently available energy data sources – or other data likely to become available – how far might smart meter data offer additional analytical insight in service of the public interest?

January's workshop on the role of BEIS, MHCLG, and government departments was illuminating in this regard.  We heard from government statisticians on their published datasets and related applications for public policy, in particular the National Energy Efficiency Data-Framework (NEED) and English Housing Survey (EHS) databases.  We also heard from UCL SERL on its 10,000-strong sample of smart meter data.  In addition, we heard helpful perspectives from the GB electricity system operator (National Grid ESO), the Committee on Climate Change, and National Energy Action, plus other PIAG participants, on where there may be gaps in official datasets and how these might be met by more granular customer-side data.  And we heard how in turn this could deliver additional public interest benefit via improved market oversight and better-targeted policy measures.  Though the workshops are held under the Chatham House rule, their valuable insights will help to inform the work of PIAG moving forward and will be incorporated into recommendations to be published in a Phase 2 final report in early 2021.

The next workshop, on the public interest benefits greater access to more granular smart meter data by regulators and national advisory bodies can bring, will take place in April 2020.  If you would like to know more or get involved in the project, you can view all PIAG publications on our dedicated microsite or get in touch at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

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