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Smart meter energy data: Exploring the public interest agenda

In-home display showing electricity usage

Research on how the smart meter energy data can be used at different scales.

Project duration: July 2015 – March 2016

Most discussion on the imminent explosion in smart energy data resulting from the roll out of domestic smart meters has centred on its use in consumer feedback, in enabling the future smart grid, and the potential for commercial exploitation. Using the data to serve wider societal goals – the public interest – has received less attention.

That was the impetus behind a joint research challenge, issued in Summer 2015 by CSE and Sustainability First with funding from TEDDINET. We wanted to understand how future household smart-meter energy data might be used to serve public interest – so we posed the following questions:

Two short research papers have arisen from this challenge

Simon Elam (University College London) looked at how new household smart-meter data could serve the public interest agenda from a national perspective. He has also written a technical annex on currently available energy consumption data for GB households, and the data available at regional and local levels.

Jess Britton (University of Exeter) investigated the use of new household smart meter data to serve public policy and the public interest agenda from a devolved, regional and local perspective. Smart grids and non-traditional business models were a focus of this work.

What did the research papers highlight about smart meter data?

The papers point to a number of uses which have broader public interest (c.f. commercial or pure consumer interest) applications. These include:

The latter was the focus of CSE’s Bristol Smart Energy City Collaboration, in which we explored the potential applications of smart energy data for public interest at the city scale. Reflections on the first year of this initiative can be found here.

The two research papers, which both include executive summaries, explore these issues in more depth. They also outline a set of recommendations and practical steps that would make public interest applications of smart energy data more prominent in future policy-making, and easier to integrate into existing and future practices. Both authors propose the immediate establishment of a Public Interest Advisory Group to help realise these recommendations.

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