Smarter Things: Effective Smart Meter Data Management
In many industries, data is a valuable commodity. Learn how network operators and energy suppliers can use data to tailor better products for their customers.
As energy has become smarter, Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) and energy suppliers have become more reliant on data.
Whether to predict expected demand on any given network at any given time, or understand their customers better, DNOs and suppliers can use data to provide a more personalised services to customers. But how easy is it to harness the potential of data?
The problem faced by DNOs and suppliers is that required data is usually stored in disparate locations in different brands of smart meter, due to the complex way such data is collected. Some of these are easier to communicate with than others. This means extraction – let alone use – becomes extremely difficult. That’s not to mention the regulatory hurdles of accessing the smart meter users’ data.
What can DNOs and suppliers do to leap over these data management hurdles?
Getting data acquisition right
For DNOs, sufficiently granular data is key to ensuring suppliers can satisfy users’ energy demands. Yet this raises two issues: the accuracy of the data and the means by which they are acquired.
Granularity is key to the usefulness of energy data and the accuracy of usage predictions. The more in-depth the data, the better. While data offered in daily chunks to DNOs does provide some information on customers’ energy habits, it does not give them the clearest picture of when they are using energy. Granular data is essential in giving allowing DNOs to cater for demand across the network, particularly as households become equipped to perform more demand-intensive activities such as EV charging.
For energy suppliers, the need for detailed data is just as pressing. Granular data facilitates the creation of bespoke customer tariffs based on individual energy needs. But to acquire this data, energy suppliers need access to Data Communications Company (DCC) systems through channels which are compliant with Great British Companion Specification (GBCS), the DCC User Interface Specification (DUIS) alongside Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications (SMETS). Effective data is even more important for newer entrants to the supplier market who promise customers transparency when it comes to their energy usage.
Despite DNOs and suppliers having theoretical access to energy consumption data, that doesn’t mean they have access to all the data they would like. Strict regulations govern data access in the energy industry in the UK. Until recently, Ofgem only permitted supplier access to daily and monthly data without the user’s consent. In order to acquire more granular data, the supplier had to acquire the customer’s explicit consent.
But things have changed with regards to suppliers’ rights to access customer data. Ofgem recently approved access to half-hourly data segments on an opt-out basis over the next four years. This has brought new data compliance concerns, from whether the customer has the right to opt-out of data collected by suppliers to the amount of data suppliers’ staff are permitted to see.
Finding a data management partner
DNOs and energy suppliers won’t necessarily have the skills and expertise to extract and manage data effectively in-house. From accessing the DCC network, to extracting data in a meaningful format, to making the best use of the data in their hands, DNOs and suppliers may need assistance from a third party to gain the best insights into their customers’ energy use.
As electricity usage increases due to demand-intensive activities in the home, the scalability of solutions regarding data handling also becomes more important. The solution used by the DNO or supplier must handle large volumes of data being generated simultaneously across their network and customer base.
Critical Software offers a solution to the obstacles DNOs and suppliers face when gleaning the best insights from data. We’re working with the n3rgy platform to provide a scalable, dynamic product to DNOs and suppliers, including a sandbox through which DNOs and suppliers can test data collection activities; the management of customer consent vis-à-vis data; and an open commodity pricing model.
A new approach to energy data management
Acquiring data is one task but making the best use of it is arguably harder. Customers benefit from having access to accurate breakdowns of energy usage, DNOs and suppliers gain from a simple API request format allowing them to acquire data in a hassle-free way. DNOs benefit by having a greater understanding of when usage peaks and can therefore match distribution to demand. Suppliers can use data to develop flexible tariffs which save customers money and prevent energy wastage, benefiting the environment. But each will likely need support to make the most of their data.
Learn more about Critical Software’s experience in energy data acquisition and management, and how our partnership with n3rgy has borne fruit for energy suppliers, in our case study.