Open Energy

The Open Energy programme facilitates the ability to search, access and securely share energy data, covering both Open Data and commercial Shared Data where access requires control

After Open Banking and Open Finance, the Smart Data area to have the next highest level of attention and investment is Open Energy. The core drivers of this initiative are based around enhancing access and use of consumer energy data, for reasons including tariff comparison, supplier switching, and seeking greener energy sources. This combination of financial and environmental aspects puts Open Energy at the forefront of many current concerns. Furthermore, the energy sector can be seen as a system-of-systems, having overlap with numerous other sectors, and activity here can have wide ranging impact.

Following early Open Banking development activities, the 'Midata in Energy' programme was developed to lead the charge of Open Energy. This programme began in mid-2018, with main governance from Ofgem, and other governmental connections within BEIS, DCMS, Government Digital Services (GDS), and the Cabinet Office. External collaborators include the Open Data Institute, the Alan Turing Institute, and Energy Systems Catapult. The internal structure of the programme is based around three sub-groups: a standards design authority, a user engagement forum (for consumer considerations), and an industry delivery group (for supplier considerations).

The 'Midata in Energy' programme was active until 2021, when it was placed on hold pending further review, which is due in Spring 2022. This pause was initiated in order to assess all energy sector programmes together, including the 'Switching Programme' and the 'Market-wide Half-Hourly Settlement (MHHS) programme', and to establish a best course of action with consolidated insights, encompassing those from Midata. The stakes in the energy sector are high, this being one of the top seven potential beneficiaries of a drive towards a more digital economy, according to analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), with consumer data playing a significant role. It is expected that work in this area will substantially alter the energy data landscape over coming years.

Consumer energy data includes details of a user's current supplier, contract start and end dates, payment method, energy use, tariff, supply cost, meter details, and basic details such as location. This data was recognised to be of inconsistent quality and format, which the Smart Data initiative of Midata sought to address in order to support interoperability.

Without such improvements data access is slow and often requires manual intervention, and this inhibits use and uptake of services from Third Party Providers (TPPs) like price comparison websites, which are key for enabling customers to make informed choices and reallocate their utility choices, thereby stimulating competitive innovation in the market. With the Midata initiatives enacted, consumers can share their standardised data with accredited TPPs, either on a one-time-basis or as a frequent data stream, thereby circumventing a lot of the previous overhead and simplifying the overall experience. Regarding supplier switching, Ofgem analysis shows that an average of £320 per year could be saved by consumers actively engaged with finding the best tariff, but in 2017 only 18% of customers actually investigated and took such action. Open Energy schemes such as Midata aim to rebalance the market in the consumer's favour, by allowing them to more easily realise and take advantage of the situation.

The Modernising Energy Data programme is driving the implementation of plans laid out by the Energy Data Taskforce (EDTF). This includes publishing data best practice guidance, funding the development of an energy data visibility service, setting regulatory expectations for digitalisation and data use, and recognising the need for interoperability between digital services. One recommendation of the EDTF was to operate on the principle that data should be first presumed open, and with access then scaled back as necessary, partly based on data ethics considerations. This "data triage" approach is essentially the opposite of the traditional approach, in which data is presumed closed until request for access is made and then granted pending verification.

While there are issues surrounding consumer consent, standards assurance and compliance, none are thought to be insurmountable challenges. Ultimately, efforts in Open Energy aim to have positive impact on data consistency, quality, security, and appropriateness of use.

Open Energy could help to change markets, create open ecosystems and implement policy objectives. Such developments are the first step towards consumers having more control over their energy data, and supports the creation of innovative new energy services, including those which help people move to a cheaper energy supplier, and to find suppliers that use more favourable energy sources such as renewables. To more quickly realise these benefits to their full potential, it could be beneficial to promote a drive towards mandating participation from organisations in the energy ecosystem, as was had with Open Banking.

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