Making responsible use of Smart Meter data
Access to half-hourly Smart Meter readings offers enormous potential for the energy industry. Sophisticated analysis could deliver tremendous value to consumers, producers and every stake holder in the energy value chain. But at what cost? Not just financial (although that has been extensively analysed), but to personal privacy?
DECC, Ofgem, retailers and consumer groups are all very aware of the sensitivity of half hourly snapshots of energy consumption and their ability to paint a very vivid picture of how and where we spend our time – and thankfully it has been acknowledged in every aspect of the preparation stages for the Smart Meter roll-out programme.
How can a happy medium be struck? How can consumers get value-based propositions from a competitive energy market that would match their personal energy needs? This could be made possible if consumers grant energy companies access to their energy consumption history, or perhaps an automatically determined consumption profile or consumer category could be extracted from the information gathered by the new Smart Meters. In the future, could we see telco-style packaged offerings like “The Night Owl” package, “Family” package or maybe the “Weekender” package? Ofgem and consumers will want energy suppliers to have easily understood, clearly priced products that meet consumer needs.
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing a simplification of energy solution offers that are interesting, innovative and enable energy companies to differentiate their brand values through the products/bundles they offer. Perhaps lessons will be learned from the journey mobile phone companies have taken, from wireless voice to simple text communication and a slow (remember WAP?) but very steady enabler of the new “game changing” paradigm – enablement of truly mobile workers. I am particularly interested to learn what the top brains and strategists inside today’s energy companies see as the next big thing for energy once its industry becomes “digital”.
I believe one thing is certain: data will be the enabler or the inhibitor of the new digital energy era. If an energy company can harness the information, secure it and treat it for the benefit of its customers they will develop a trusted relationship and a strong brand. Get it wrong and it could be game over.