UK Power Networks is working with the Energy Systems Catapult to identify households across London, the East and Southeast which may need extra support, now and in the future.
A new project using sophisticated data software aims to help people struggling with their fuel bills in London.
The UK’s largest electricity distribution network operator (DNO) UK Power Networks is working with the Energy Systems Catapult to identify households across London, the East and Southeast which may need extra support, now and in the future.
The Social Connect project will use artificial intelligence (AI) and data science techniques to combine the companies’ information, existing fuel poverty insight, along with smart meter data supplied by households, and geographical and socio-economic statistics.
The AI system, produced by software firm Urban Tide, will bring these data sets together into one dashboard which gives an accurate picture of who may need help, especially in areas where people are less likely to come forward and ask for support.
UK Power Networks is aiming to help seven times more customers facing fuel poverty as it currently does – rising from 14,000 per year to 100,000. Using AI is a vital step in a time of significant challenges; research from charity Citizens Advice suggests that up to that 600,000 people are now entering fuel poverty in the UK because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“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”
UK Power Networks doesn’t set energy bills, but it offers energy efficiency advice to help people reduce their energy use, and tailored advice to help customers access government grants or support from its 223 charity partners.
“The pandemic has caused extraordinary challenges and meant hundreds of thousands may enter fuel poverty,” said Ian Cameron, head of customer services and innovation, UK Power Networks.
“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.”
The project will run until December 2022. Its first steps will be to research and evaluate new data sources, before designing and developing the data science tools to build the dashboard.
“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,” added Dr Rose Chard, Fair Future programme lead at Energy Systems Catapult.
“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.”
UK Power Networks said it invests more than £600m in its electricity networks every year, offers extra help to vulnerable customers at times of need, and is undertaking trials to ensure that electricity networks support the transition to a low carbon future.
Energy Systems Catapult was set up to accelerate the transformation of the UK’s energy system to achieve Net Zero and ensure UK businesses and consumers capture the opportunities of clean growth.
The Catapult is an independent, not-for-profit centre of excellence that aims to bridge the gap between industry, government, academia and research. Its approach is to take a whole systems view of the energy sector, helping to identify and address innovation priorities and market barriers, in order to decarbonise the energy system at the lowest cost.