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The Smart Energy Research Lab: FAIR on fuel

The world is entering a period of increased uncertainty about the security, affordability and sustainability of our energy supplies. The ability to analyse changes in domestic energy consumption quickly and accurately may help us as a society to address problems, such as fuel poverty, more effectively. Researchers at the Smart Energy Research Lab (SERL) are making household smart meter data (and linked contextual data) available for cross-disciplinary research, which could help to tackle some of these urgent issues.

The Smart Energy Research Lab Observatory Data is available to safely access through the UKDS SecureLab and contains household energy meter, climate and survey data for a sample of over 13,000 consenting households, as well as Energy Performance Certificate data for each building, where available. This data is made available to accredited UK energy researchers – via a UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded project called the Smart Energy Research Lab – to allow research into cross-disciplinary aspects in topics requiring energy consumption data.

SERL is a consortium of seven UK universities (plus the Energy Saving Trust) led by University College London with the UK Data Archive, lead partner of the UK Data Service, acting as technical lead alongside Cardiff University, University of Edinburgh, Leeds Beckett University, Loughborough University and the University of Southampton participating in research projects.

The UK Data Service is the data and consent processor for SERL, which involves collecting the data, refining and publishing them for accredited researchers to access securely. Consenting households’ smart meter data from across GB is ingested into the archive on a nightly basis via the DCC (“Digital Communications Company”), a national network designed to enable access to household smart meter data for vetted third parties.

Contextual data, for example, which involves adding Energy Performance Certificate data for each building to raw meter data, generates significant additional research value, making it much more useful to researchers than energy consumption data would be on its own. This is what makes SERL such a valuable resource within the academic community. By combining scientific and social science data, it can provide an insight into how socio-demographic factors interact with energy consumption. This is data ‘interoperability’ in action, a foundational theme of European Research Infrastructure activity for the next decade as part of the FAIR initiative (FAIR = Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse of data).

A typical example of enhanced interoperability can be found in recent research studies into fuel poverty: It only becomes possible to answer certain types of cross-disciplinary questions when data from traditionally separate domains, like energy and social sciences, become readily available and linkable. One such SERL project involves working with an industrial partner to assess the effectiveness of AI in identifying households in fuel poverty. If fuel poverty can be more effectively identified and analysed, then it may be easier to suggest interventions that could help alleviate it whilst also reducing energy waste.

SERL Consortium Manager James O’Toole said: “Being able to link different datasets together – such as smart energy and socio-demographic data – enables us to build a much richer picture of how energy is being used in domestic settings. This allows us to gain novel insights and hopefully produce findings that can be put to practical use in addressing important social challenges such as reducing fuel poverty and achieving net zero.

If you are interested in research into Fuel Poverty, you may be interested in the English Housing Survey data.

More information

Application requirements to apply to access SERL data through UKDS SecureLab

SERL data through UK Data Service data catalogue

SERL research projects

UK Data Service project information: SERL