Drive to up smart meter benefits for small businesses in Britain

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The government is proposing changes to energy supply licence conditions to improve the smart meter data offer to non-domestic customers.

In a new consultation paper the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) suggests that suppliers are not delivering data-based innovations and services at the pace needed to maximise the benefits of smart metering for non-domestic consumers.

The rollout to these customers, which number around 2 million mainly microbusinesses and small and medium-sized enterprises, is estimated to lead to £1.5 billion (US$2.1 billion) of energy savings, driven by engagement with smart meter data and reduction or time shifting of their consumption.

However, under the current licence conditions suppliers are not obligated to provide non-domestic customers with a default way of accessing or engaging with their energy consumption data – unlike for domestic households, where they are obligated to provide an in-home display for their near real-time energy use. Instead, the suppliers are required to provide these customers and nominated third parties with access to the data upon request.

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The BEIS is proposing a minimum baseline of free access to information based on energy consumption data, presented in a user friendly format to allow the customers insights into their energy consumption and usage.

Such data also should be provided by default on a regular, ongoing basis, sufficient to enable the customer to make informed choices about their energy consumption and understand their consumption patterns and trends over time.

Another proposal is to streamline the smart meter data access process for customer nominated third parties both to support energy saving and net zero initiatives and to ease access to the market and delivery of services by these parties.

It also is proposed to extend these changes to all non-domestic consumers with a SMETS or advanced meter, adding a further 330,000 meters with larger non-domestic organisations to the approximately 3 million of the smaller non-domestic customers.

The BEIS, in the paper, points to the complexity of generating demand and engagement with business consumers and the intention not to be overly prescriptive in order not to stifle innovation. Moreover, non-domestic licence obligations should remain technology neutral without mandating any one particular data tool, format or service.

Therefore, the proposals are intended to act as a legislative floor or baseline that supplier data offerings cannot fall below, rather than indicating a ceiling or best practice approach.

The proposals are now out for a three-month period of consultation running to 24 September.