UKPN leverages AI to assist 100k customers in energy poverty

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Energy distribution network operator UK Power Networks (UKPN) has partnered with the Energy Systems Catapult to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to help consumers living in energy poverty.

AI will be used to combine the utility’s information, existing fuel poverty insights, socio-economic statistics, and smart meter data to identify energy poverty trends amongst consumers in London, the East, and South East. Technology firm Urban Tide has developed the AI platform.

UKPN plans to use the technology to increase its assistance to customers as well the number of consumers the company will help by seven times compared to the current levels. The utility is currently helping some 14,000 customers in energy poverty and expects to reach some 100,000 because of the project.

Citizens Advice expects an additional 600,000 consumers to enter into fuel poverty due to COVID-19. In addition, a continued increase in the prices of natural gas is expected to drive a rise in the number of consumers in need of assistance. EU energy companies and research firm Cornwall Insights forecast the prices of natural gas across Europe to reach a new record level during winter due to a decrease in the supply of natural gas and in storage levels.

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Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation, said: “The pandemic has caused extraordinary challenges and meant hundreds of thousands may enter fuel poverty. They might not think to come and ask us for help, and we can’t predict what future challenges might come our way, but what we can do is use new technology to deliver more targeted and higher-quality support to those who need it most. That’s exactly what this project is all about.”

UKPN will offer assistance in the form of energy efficiency solutions/tips and access to government grants to consumers living in energy poverty, according to a statement.

Dr Rose Chard, Fair Future programme lead at Energy Systems Catapult, adds: “The transition to a smart flexible energy system will provide great opportunities to better understand the trade-offs that households are having to make when struggling to afford adequate energy. By drawing on insight about behaviours, as well as smart data, this project pioneers methods that ensure fuel poor households aren’t left behind – by working with them to design support for them. This project will ensure that all consumers can benefit from the opportunities of the smart flexible energy future.”

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