In February 2015, Ofgem (the UK’s Office of Gas and Electricity Markets) published its Decision on Extending the Smart Meter Framework to Remote Meters (the Decision). This confirms that, following a public consultation, the privacy requirements embedded in the supplier licence terms and which will apply to suppliers’ use of customer data from “smart meters” will apply to a wider class of meters.
Ofgem is a non-ministerial government department and an independent National Regulatory Authority, recognised by EU Directives. The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (the DECC) is leading the implementation of “smart metering”; gas and electricity suppliers are required to roll out around 53 million smart meters, affecting every home and smaller business in Great Britain. The rollout is scheduled to be completed by 2020. Smart meters are expected to bring significant benefits. Consumers will have more information about their energy consumption, which should help them manage their usage more effectively. There will be improved and more accurate billing, easier and quicker switching between different methods of payment, and a wider range of payment options, including Internet-based prepayment top-up. Smart meters should also help to reduce costs for the industry and, ultimately, consumers.
However, smart meters can store much more detailed energy consumption data than traditional meters, and are capable of being read remotely. The DECC therefore originally introduced a regulatory framework for data access and privacy specifically for smart meters, including new supplier licence obligations (the Privacy Requirements), as well as obligations in the Smart Energy Code to complement the Data Protection Act 1998 and to ensure that consumers have control over the use of consumption data from their meters.
The Privacy Requirements require suppliers:
- For domestic consumers, to get opt-in consent to obtain and use data at greater detail than daily reads, or to use any detail of consumption data for marketing
- For domestic consumers, to get opt-out consent for access to consumption data up to daily detail (the supplier is required to notify the consumer of the data it plans to take and must not take the data if the consumer so requests)
- For micro business consumers, to get opt-out consent for access to consumption data at greater detail than monthly
Along with “smart meters”, there is a range of meters with similar functionality, such as “smart-type”, “advanced domestic”, “advanced” and “AMR” meters; Ofgem refers to these collectively as Remote Access Meters – i.e., any meter that isn’t a smart meter, but which is able remotely to send consumption data to the supplier, either on its own or with an ancillary device. Ofgem’s Decision confirms that the Privacy Requirements will also apply to Remote Access Meters in the future, regardless of when they were installed.