This is Icebreaker One’s response to the open consultation on ‘Delivering a smart and secure electricity system: the interoperability and cyber security of energy smart appliances and remote load control’. It can be published openly. Please see our consultation response here.
If you have any questions about our submission or require clarifications please do not hesitate to contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for considering our submission.
Question 6: Do you agree with our proposed outcomes for interoperability? Please explain your answer
We agree with the proposed outcomes, suggesting one addition. To increase interoperability within energy smart appliances (ESAs), there is currently a missed opportunity to incorporate a centralised consumer consent process. This would allow consumers to clearly and easily consent to share data with third parties. A centralised consumer consent process streamlines data access and secure data sharing, while automating compliance processes. This form of standardisation therefore brings benefits to consumers (consistency and transparency), as well as benefits to third parties (transparency and ease of compliance).
Question 8: Do you agree with Government’s proposed data privacy outcomes for ESAs?
We broadly agree with the outlined approach, however we would suggest one area of reframing. Currently the consultation suggests future policy development that ‘Minimises the amount of personal data shared with third parties (including DSRSPs);’. In order to provide effective and innovative services, we suggest that third party personal data access is restricted to relevant rather than necessarily minimal data. This approach can preserve privacy without risking the inadvertent creation of boundaries to data-based innovation that adds value for consumers, as has been demonstrated in the Open Banking ecosystem.
Question 10: Do you agree with Government’s proposals to make time-of-use tariff data openly available in a common format for Energy Smart Appliances?
Yes, we strongly support this approach. As also outlined in our response to Ofgem’s Data Best Practice Review Call for Input (2022), we suggest that Government should mandate the adoption of existing standard licences for Open data – including but not limited to the proposed time-of-use (TOU) tariff data. Specifically, we advise that suppliers should not be permitted to create bespoke Open data licences for TOU data.
Icebreaker One’s research has demonstrated that creation of bespoke data licences present risks to data usability, by increasing the costs (time, financial, legal) of interpreting non-standardised licences and/or by permitting data publishers to create licences which do not actually produce Open data (either through error or evasion). Rather than creating a new licence for the purpose of publishing TOU tariff data, we strongly suggest that Government mandates existing well-known Open data licences (e.g. Creative Commons, Open Government Licence or similar). In order to minimise unnecessary conflict which could surround the choice of a single Open data licence, as well as costs of change for organisations that already adopt different but well-known standard Open data licences, we suggest that Government specifies a limited set of well-established standard Open data licences that must be used to publish TOU tariff Open data.
Question 11: Do you agree that the Smart Energy Code could provide the appropriate governance for development of common data standards? Please explain your answer.
We are aware that there are several existing bodies who could potentially take on responsibility for the development, and ongoing governance, of common data standards in this area. Whichever body is ultimately chosen, we strongly advise that this body is tasked with developing and governing data standards using an open standards approach.
Use of an open standards approach means the governance body must ensure that:
- Participation in standards development and governance is open to anyone without undue restriction. For example, participation should not be restricted to signatories of a particular code and must include avenues for participation by independent experts.
- Development and governance of data standards is conducted in the open. This means that all processes are appropriately documented, published openly, and available for scrutiny.
- Standards created are accessible to and usable by anyone. For example, they must not sit behind a paywall or be accessible only for specific groups within the sector.
Overall, we strongly advise the adoption of open standards approaches as a means of governance designed to prevent undue exercise of vested interests, while improving transparency and accountability. This recommendation is applicable to whichever governance body is ultimately assigned responsibility.
Question 12. How should Government ensure that Energy Smart Appliances integrate with time-of-use tariffs, beyond providing interoperability with tariff data?
We recommend to increase TOU interoperability through the introduction of a standard for TOU tariff description. For clarity, this is not a suggestion to standardise the types and/or granularity of TOU tariffs that can be offered; this should be determined by market development. Rather, we suggest establishing a standard for TOU tariff description in order to establish a transparent and consistent way of describing, communicating and comparing TOU tariff offers. We suggest that this standard should be developed in a manner that is applicable across ESA-specific (e.g. heat pump / EV) and generalised TOU tariffs. We also suggest that this form of standardisation is particularly important for building consumer confidence and product adoption in a developing marketplace, which has the potential to become rapidly more complex. Building such confidence is vital to the growth in DSR and flexibility envisaged within the consultation, thus should also be considered a key aspect of systemic interoperability.
Question 13: Should Government consider standardisation of other types of ‘incentive data’ used by ESAs for DSR? Please consider what types of data and how they could be standardised.
We suggest that standardised description of all types of incentive data (including price-based and non-price-based) is included in a standard for TOU tariff description, as recommended in response to Question 12.
Beyond this, we suggest that the priority area of incentive data that would benefit from standardisation is carbon emissions/intensity. As per the example provided in the consultation, we suggest that it would be appropriate to align with established formats for measuring and presenting carbon intensity data already used by the sector (e.g. by National Grid ESO).
In future there may be benefit to considering whether or how multiple incentive data streams could be used in combination, for example to offer tariffs that can optimise both for price and (low) carbon intensity. Research shows that environmental impact is a significant additional motivator for consumer behavioural change and/or technology adoption that can have impacts beyond price incentives alone. As such, we suggest that designing data standards to facilitate combined price and environmental incentives in the TOU market may accelerate adoption by a wider variety of households.
Question 14: Do you agree that Government should establish regulatory requirements to promote adoption of ESA standards, and what would be your preferred approach? Please consider the advantages and disadvantages of an ‘approved standards’ (Option 1) vs. ‘mandated’ (Option 2) approach.
We support the introduction of regulatory requirements. Regardless of the option chosen, we strongly recommend that the Government advocates for the development and/or adoption of Open standards wherever possible. As outlined in other responses, we suggest that this presents a preferable avenue for ensuring that standards are fair, accessible and open to scrutiny.
Questions 15 – 16:
Question 17: What is your preferred option for developing and maintaining ESA standards in the future? Are there other options we should be considering? Please explain how you would expect your preferred option working in practice.
We understand that there may be advantages to using the existing BSI/PAS approach in time sensitive areas. However, we suggest that doing so for all aspects of ESA standards design/governance may risk de-facto prioritisation of the involvement of familiar parties in the sector. In order to ensure that all sources of input are considered, we recommend that a bespoke industry group approach is used where practical and that this is conducted on the basis of open working methodologies. Specifically, we also suggest that the industry group approach is designed to facilitate the involvement of a wide and proportional range of stakeholders across the developing landscape, including incumbents, new entrants, and independent expertise.
Icebreaker One has experience of facilitating this form of industry engagement, as demonstrated via the MEDA-winning Open Energy project, and are happy to engage further with BEIS regarding our methods if useful.
Questions 18 – 22:
23. What are the key considerations for design of governance during the development, transition and delivery phases of implementation?
As outlined in the response to Question 11, we advise that governance design follows open working principles wherever possible. This includes, but is not limited to, the development of open standards. This recommendation is made to ensure that governance processes demonstrate levels of transparency, independence and accountability which can adequately manage a complex political environment in the sector; including the potential for vested interests to clash with government policy goals (e.g. net zero 2050), evolving consumer protection requirements, openness to new market entrants / innovators, and/or independent expert advice.
Questions 24 – 25:
Question 26: Do you think a labelling scheme for ESAs could help promote consumer uptake in DSR from ESAs? If yes, what type and form of labelling would be most beneficial?
We agree that a labelling scheme would be beneficial. As per our response to Question 12, we strongly suggest that any labelling scheme for ESAs and/or associated services (e.g. TOUs) is backed by standards for ESA and related service description. In all cases, we believe that this will promote interoperability, informed choice and consumer confidence by improving the transparency and comparability of new products and services.
We also suggest that there would be benefit to developing a dedicated ESA labelling scheme. While there is potential to include smart functionality in existing energy efficiency labelling, we caution that in many cases the potential efficiency benefits are subject to multiple dependencies. Firstly, ESAs may be dependent on using the product in combination with other services (e.g. TOU tariffs, data services, third party asset management etc.). Secondly, these services may in turn be dependent on other factors, such as non-ESA markets and/or supply chains. These dynamic factors are difficult to measure and we suggest that attempts to adapt existing – static – energy efficiency labelling to ESAs risks becoming misleading.
We agree with the consultation that further research into this matter is required and suggest that this must explore new dependencies informing ESA outcomes.
Questions 27 – 38:
Question 39: What additional protections for consumers could be required from a future licensing framework beyond those contained in existing consumer protection law?
Aligning with the first bullet point on consultation page 61, we suggest that consumer confidence and trust must be protected by appropriate requirements for device and service interoperability. A key part of this can be achieved by the introduction of standards for ESA and related service description as described elsewhere in this response (e.g. Question 12 regarding TOU tariffs).
Question 40: Are additional data privacy protections required for DSR beyond those existing in law through the General Data Protection Regulation? If so, what additional measures should be introduced and why?
As outlined in the response to Question 6, we identify that the absence of a centralised consumer consent process for ESA and related service data currently presents a missed opportunity. The introduction of this process would empower consumers to clearly consent to sharing data where relevant. Improvements to standardisation and transparency through the creation of a centralised mechanism would mean that these processes are more accessible and easily negotiated than current bespoke arrangements. This approach offers additional co-benefits to third parties by simplifying their compliance burden. We are happy to speak further with BEIS regarding this proposal, drawing from experience in the spheres of Open Banking and Open Energy.
42. Do you agree that licences should contain conditions to ensure that organisations are not able to use their market position to hinder consumer switching or undermine delivery of Government’s objectives for interoperable energy smart appliances?
We strongly recommend the inclusion of conditions to this effect. As per previous question responses, we advocate that all forms of governance in this arena are able to account for – and counter – the potential for exercise of vested interests in a manner which can negatively influence market development and/or the net zero transition.
Questions 43 – 44: