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An Energy Data Manifesto



The authors are Australia-based energy researchers who view a close link between access to energy data and the country's transition to a sustainable and just community-based energy future, which they argue is currently hampered by some major incumbent energy sector businesses and politicians. Rooftop solar (PV) panels are popular additions to Australian homes but individuals do not have access to the data about the energy they produce and consume. Access to this data would empower individuals and collectives such as community energy groups, and accordingly could hasten Australia's take-up and implementation of sustainable energy in a sustainable, communal way. The authors provide a series of recommended actions in their manifesto which would lead to this goal.
Edited by Angela Daly,
S. Kate Devitt
and Monique Mann
Theory on Demand #29
Good Data
Editors: Angela Daly, S. Kate Devitt and Monique Mann
Copy editor: Harley Williams
Editorial assistant: Kayleigh Murphy
Funding: Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Law
Cover design: Katja van Stiphout
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Published by the Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2019
ISBN 978-94-92302-27-4
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This collaborative manifesto, co-written by a social scientist and engineers, situates the
demands for data about energy use and planning by regulators, consumers and policy-mak-
ers in an historical and regulatory context, most notably the shift from state ownership of
large coal power plants to competition policy. We outline paths forward in three overlapping
areas: firstly, data for the empowerment of consumers should see easier access to usage data
provided by retailers, whilst new collectives to produce energy should be encouraged and
enabled. Secondly under the umbrella of ‘data for accountability’, we situate practical work
we have undertake in open source modelling in a wider set of concerns about how retailers
and electricity supply (poles and wires) businesses are run. Finally, building on these two
areas, we speculate how moving past the binary between individual versus corporate interest
may enable a more democratic and accountable research capacity into energy planning. We
conclude noting the scale and scope of challenges facing energy policy makers in Australia
and underscore the importance of a strategic ‘technopolitics’ – the technical details of market
design – to both effective action on climate change and robust, sustainable energy systems.
A spectre is haunting Australia – the spectre of an energy transition. All the powers of the
old energy sector have entered an unholy alliance to exorcise this spectre.1 Enabled by
rapid technological changes, including developments in distributed solar, storage, metering
and control, the prospect of an environmentally sustainable, equitable and reliable energy
system driven by community knowledge and engagement has emerged. The control of the
resultant explosion of energy data lies at the heart of the battle for our energy future. Although
enthusiasm for much broader access to energy data to monitor and facilitate this transition is
growing, some key incumbent energy sector businesses, politicians and others are pushing
to maintain present asymmetries in energy data collection and access. Two things result from
the struggle to remedy these asymmetries:
1. A revolution in how we collect and disseminate energy data - especially that of end-users
- is sorely needed. This is widely acknowledged by Australian policy-makers.
2. Appropriate frameworks are urgently needed for collecting and sharing suitably anony-
mised energy data to enable a rapid transition to a democratic and sustainable energy
1 Of course, we understand this is not entirely true, and that toxic politics is a major barrier, but we adapt
this quote from another famous manifesto to illustrate the difficulties being faced by proponents of
sustainable energy in Australia.
As energy researchers, we use energy data to inform our work, build our models and pro-
vide insights on possible energy transition futures. By collectively and openly publishing our
views about what good energy data access and oversight might look like, and the prospects
for an energy data revolution, we hope to facilitate public debate to help bring about a just
transition in the energy sector in ways that empower and enable communities to determine
their own futures.
We focus on the electricity sector that is the primary subject of our work, and where the
quantity and complexity of energy data is increasing rapidly, with only limited guidance from
policy-makers regarding who should have access and under what terms. This work is both
technical and political – it redraws the boundaries of which actors have access to relevant data,
and, therefore, who can make decisions. Political structures are important in shaping regu-
lation, but equally, politics and regulations are shaped by technical details and flows of data.
A History of the Current Paradigm Through Data
The history of the Australian electricity system is a history of paradigms: small, local generation
and governance at the municipal level has given way to large, state-owned, and generally verti-
cally integrated electricity commissions. These became responsible for planning, building and
operating large centralised generation assets and networks to serve energy consumers under
a social contract of affordable and reliable electricity provision. Unlike some jurisdictions, such
as those States in the US that established Utility Commissions to oversee monopoly electricity
utilities, there was remarkably little transparency about the operation of these Australian state
electricity commissions. To this day, Utilities themselves have had very limited information
on nearly all energy consumers because data infrastructure has typically comprised simple
accumulation meters that provided only quarterly consumption data.
Events in the 1980s, such as attempts to build power stations for an aluminium smelting
boom that never materialised, increased pressure to establish greater government and public
oversight of the Utilities in some key states. However, these initiatives were overtaken by a
micro-economic reform agenda in the early 1990s that established a very different direction
for the electricity sector.
The reform agenda for electricity focussed on the vertical separation of generation and retail
from the natural monopoly networks, the introduction of competition and the sale of pub-
licly-owned electricity generation, transmission and distribution assets to the private sector.2
The key role of publicly available data (see Box 1) to facilitate an effective market in electricity
provision was appreciated at an early stage of this restructuring.3
2 George Wilkenfeld, ‘Cutting greenhouse emissions-what would we do if we really meant it?’, Australian
Review of Public Affairs, (2007); George
Wilkenfeld & Peter Spearritt, ‘Electrifying Sydney’, Sydney: EnergyAustralia, 2004.
3 The Australian National Electricity Market uses detailed data regarding large-scale generation, namely
five-minute market offers of all scheduled generators, their dispatch and market prices.
A key objective of micro-economic reform was to provide energy consumers with greater
choice, which according to economic rationalist theory would put them at the heart of deci-
sion-making in the industry.4 There was far less focus on the role of public energy data (Box
1) to facilitate effective engagement at the distribution network and retail market level.
Box 1: What is ‘Public Energy Data’?
Energy data typically refers to information over time regarding the level of energy consumption, genera-
tion, quality,<5> and price. When coupled with metadata (such as consumer location or demographics),
this data can yield valuable insights for researchers, and policymakers in domains such as urban
planning, demography, and sociology. We use the prefix ‘public’ to refer to energy data which is freely
and publicly available. This can be contrasted to proprietary data held by privately owned retailers
or within government departments. Public refers to both the state of accessibility and the process of
making otherwise enclosed data freely available.
Market design decisions in the 1990s mean that key parameters of the energy markets are
published online. The Federal regulator AEMO publishes energy consumption and wholesale
price across regions (such as New South Wales) and updates this information every five min-
utes. energy data demonstrate the importance of aggregation.5 When household data includes
thousands or even millions of households, it yields insights relevant to decision-making about
the supply and distribution system (poles and wires), retail and wholesale markets. Because
Retailer and Network Business access to consumer data is generally far superior to that of
consumers, regulators or researchers, there are substantial information asymmetries with
implications for competition, regulation and broader decision-making.
Data for Empowerment of Consumers and New Collectives
Decarbonising an electricity sector governed through the competition policy paradigm has
proven incredibly problematic.6 A new paradigm of governing carbon emissions through a
nationally regulated cap and trade scheme spluttered into life briefly in 2012 before being
snuffed out by the Coalition Government of Tony Abbott in 2014.
In this contentious policy context, private action by households to reduce emissions by
deploying household PV has been one of the few environmental success stories for effective
transition to a sustainable energy system in Australia. Collectives have also sprung up in the
ashes of the carbon emissions trading regime seeking to make the transition to sustainable
electricity industry infrastructure. The competition policy paradigm preserves universal indi-
4 This is of course not true as consumers would still only be responding to the products offered to them.
5 Available on the Australian Energy Market Operator’s website:
6 Iain MacGill and Stephen Healy, ‘Is electricity industry reform the right answer to the wrong question?
Lessons from Australian restructuring and climate policy.’, in Fereidoon P. Sioshansi (ed.), Evolution of
Global Electricity Markets, Cambridge MA: Academic Press, 2013, pp. 615-644.
vidual household access to competitive retail markets. However, these markets have gener-
ally served retailers better than their customers. Moreover, the competition policy paradigm
has constrained collectives at the community scale seeking to building mini or microgrids
or develop shared energy resources like solar and batteries. Crucially, groups organising
around contracts that would effectively remove choice of provider have been scuppered by
competition justifications. Furthermore, competition policies have further constrained access
to data by locking these groups into market arrangements where legacy retail businesses
have advantages of scale and incumbency.
At present, households can be both consumers and producers of energy (prosumers) yet
do not have real-time access to their energy consumption data. This data is collected by the
metering service providers and then passed to the electricity retailers and network companies
for billing, sales and planning needs. While consumers are able to obtain their past con-
sumption data, it is usually not a straightforward process and there is no consistent format of
delivery. As decentralised energy becomes increasingly prevalent, secure energy data sharing
is needed to facilitate new markets and options.
Community groups such as Pingala and ClearSky Solar have been asking the question, ‘who
should have energy usage data and under what circumstances?’ with quite different perspec-
tives to those of network operators, the large retailers and Federal regulators that are a legacy
of the old paradigm. These community groups seek to democratise ownership of the energy
system through facilitating communities’ investment in solar PV assets and sale of the elec-
tricity generated.7 However, without visibility over relevant data to investment decision-mak-
ing and electricity loads, participation in the electricity market is more difficult. Managing a
decentralised, variable renewable energy supply requires an accurate and time-sensitive set
of monitoring tools.
While millions of rooftop distributed solar generators have been installed across Australia, the
required data acquisition tools have not been deployed in parallel at a similar scale. Distributed
resources to monitor and forecast their own operation are much better able to integrate with
and respond to price signals, especially when aggregated into Virtual Power Plants – where
a host of smaller controllable loads such as battery systems, electric cars, air conditioners
and/or pool pumps act together like a physical power station.
In this political and regulatory context, data empowerment for the grassroots provides hope.
For individual consumers, this can simply mean being able to compare their retail offer with
others. This has been made somewhat possible, to the extent possible just by using bill data,
via the Australian Government’s ‘Energy Made Easy’ website, while the Australian Consumer
Association, Choice, is also developing a tool to inform consumers in the marketplace, par-
ticularly around purchases of solar or batteries. For communities, empowerment can mean
accessing the electricity usage data of one or more sites like breweries or community halls,
to size an appropriate suite of distributed energy technologies to reduce dependence on
7 See Declan Kuch and Bronwen Morgan, ‘Dissonant Justifications: an organisational perspective of
support for Australian community energy’, People Place and Policy 9 (2015): 177-218.
what are often unfair contracts with retailers. Or it can be as complex as using high temporal
resolution load and generation data to facilitate real-time peer-to-peer local energy trading
in a microgrid or across the network as exemplified by Power Ledger or LO3. However, even
timeseries usage data from a single site is currently typically not available or easily accessible.
Rather than being “allowed” retrospective access to their data, there are collective benefits in
households having real-time access to their energy use data, with the ability to control access
to that data and to share it with trusted organisations.
A proposed trial in the sunny Byron Bay region of Northern NSW provides an apt example for a
new paradigm of data flows. In this case, community owned retailer Enova is seeking to enable
local sharing of generated solar power between consumers in an arts and industrial estate and
is considering battery energy storage to increase the volume of solar power consumer locally.8
In this instance, the data is essential to allowing peer-to-peer energy trading, which otherwise
would not be possible and critically, understanding of the collective energy needs for the
estate would not be known. Furthermore, the ability for a battery to provide network benefits
requires understanding of network conditions, typically known only by the local distribution
network service provider.9 Open Utility in the UK is a similar example, enabling consumers
to trade peer-to-peer through a retailer, and looking to offer networks flexibility services.10
These examples demonstrate that appropriate data access can foster creativity with legal
structures and contracts which enables communities to work around the intransigence of
incumbent organisations and rules, and for new collectives to form. These new collectives
are based on the sharing of data on energy loads in ways that can catalyse a transition to
distributed, sustainable energy economy.
Opt-in data access to energy use data beyond just networks and retailers.
Residential consumers be granted straightforward access to their own energy use data
and be given consent to give or withdraw data for specific purposes; and so are able
to easily come together to produce and consume energy as community energy groups.
Further experimentation with the legal form of electricity businesses that will enable
investments in renewable energy.
8 See for Enova’s corporate structure, which includes a
holding company divided into a retailer which channels 50% of profits into its non-profit arm. Enova’s
constitution specifies that most shareholders must reside locally to the Northern Rivers region of NSW.
9 We note that there are ongoing efforts to make network information more widely available, for instance
through the Australian Renewable Energy Mapping Infrastructure project.
10 Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), ‘SSEN and Open Utility partner to trial revolutionary
smart grid platform’, 2018,
Data for Accountability
The corporatisation of large centralised generation and transmission brings with it require-
ments of accountability. The displacement of a public service provision model with market
and corporate logics has resulted in incentives to seek rents on what was public infrastructure,
as electricity systems globally are becoming more decentralised and decarbonised.
Decentralisation presents is both an opportunity to empower new collectives, and brings with
it risks of high costs and new power imbalances. The Australian Energy Market Operator have
recently identified a potential cost reduction of nearly $4 billion if distributed energy resources
(namely rooftop solar PV and battery energy storage) are effectively integrated,11 whilst also
flagging the substantial risks associated with the lack of visibility and control that distributed
energy resources afford.12 In this context of technological change and associated market and
regulatory reform, we see public energy data as a critical tool in a) ensuring efficient outcomes,
particularly as they can remedy historical incentives and incumbent player advantages, and;
b) supporting fair outcomes by increasing visibility of the distribution of costs and benefits
associated with the transition.
Network Service Providers (NSPs) own and operate the ‘poles and wires’ across Australia and
present a particular challenge for regulators and rule makers. As regulated monopolies, they
need to be effectively supervised without stifling innovation. They are subject to five yearly
reviews in which their revenue for the upcoming ‘regulatory period’ is set by the Australian
Energy Regulator (AER), based on information provided by the NSPs. Their regulated task of
ensuring energy supply is technically complex and they are increasingly challenged as distrib-
uted energy resources such as rooftop photovoltaic solar (the most common form of flat, black
panels on roofs) grow in number. Technologies such as solar can reduce consumer bills and
therefore utility profitability. Therefore, without transparency about network investment there
is a risk that technical challenges can be used to justify limiting access to networks, or the
use of tariff structures that disadvantage consumers that install these technologies. Improved
independent oversight of technical conditions in the depths of the network (e.g. Box 2) may
lead to more efficient and fair investment and operational outcomes.
11 AEMO, ‘Integrated System Plan’, 2018.
12 AEMO, ‘Visibility of Distributed Energy Resources’, 2017.
Box 2: The importance of voltage data for integrating distributed
Understanding how networks are functioning at both the high voltage transmission and low voltage
distribution ends is crucial to integrating renewable energy resources effectively and at a fair cost
to society. For instance, as PV uptake continues, a technical upper voltage limit is reached at local
transformers, at which point it is difficult for additional PV to connect to the network. The responsibil-
ity of Network Service Providers to maintain a stable electricity network can lead them to a cautious
approach to integration of distributed renewables, and in some jurisdictions, this has resulted in NSPs
drastically restricting deployment of residential PV.<14> However, recent data analysis – which used
information captured from independent monitoring of household PV systems – shows that network
voltages are generally high due to historic network decision making (distribution transformer set points
were generally set at a high voltage, leaving minimal ‘headroom’ for PV).<15> This has implications for
exporting rooftop PV electricity to the national grid. The visibility afforded by voltage data readings
across the network may enable scrutiny of network expenditure to ensure money is spent in a judicious
manner;<16> there may be cost-effective solutions to maintain grid stability without placing unnecessary
restrictions on deployment of distributed PV.Access to such data is key to overcoming integration
barriers and market asymmetries, and as such is an important companion to wider policies on a just
energy transition that have received more widespread attention such as the Renewable Energy Target
and carbon pricing schemes.
We believe the existing regulatory hierarchy of access rights to electricity usage data requires
restructuring. As things stand, incumbent retailers automatically have full access to their
customers’ data which they can use for commercial purposes beyond just ensuring accurate
billing, such as targeted marketing. While recent regulatory changes give customers the right
to access their electricity consumption data from retailers or NSPs, 13 householders must
apply retrospectively for the data, while both the application process and the format of data
supplied lack consistency and clarity. Although the regulation allows a customer to authorise
a third party to access their data, as yet there is no consistent mechanism for obtaining mul-
tiple consents, nor for making bulk data requests, while these bulk requests are exempted
from the time limits imposed on retailers and NSPs to provide data. This leaves researchers,
along with community groups and other players needing data from multiple users, at the
bottom of the pile. The creation of Consumer Data Rights will likely entrench this hierarchy,
further entrenching a regulatory mindset of ‘individual household vs. corporations’, hobbling
collectively forms of action from these other forms of actors. 14 15 16
13 AEMC, ‘Final Rule Determination: National Electricity Amendment (Customer access to information
about their energy consumption)’, 2014.
14 G. Simpson, ‘Network operators and the transition to decentralised electricity: An Australian socio-
technical case study’, Energy Policy 110 (2017): 422-433.
15 Naomi Stringer, Anna Bruce and Iain MacGill, ‘Data driven exploration of voltage conditions in the Low
Voltage network for sites with distributed solar PV’, paper presented at the Asia Pacific Solar Research
Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 2017.
16 See also the ‘network opportunities map’ project by UTS ISF:
A hierarchy based on the purpose of data usage could be designed to require customer opt-in
to allow their retailer (or other parties) to access their data for targeted sales. Conversely, use of
anonymised data for public-interest research or for non-profit, community-based engagement
in the energy market could be opt-out for initiatives like Enova, contingent on strict standards
of data-protection and governance schemes that include ongoing re-evaluation of the data
usage. Customers should be empowered to easily give or withdraw consent to access their
data for specific purposes, which may involve a role for a delegated authority (similar to the
community representative committees in Nepal)17 to respond to specific access requests on
their behalf.
A good energy data regime cannot continue to play by the incumbent rules. Good policy-mak-
ing and robust regulation depend on access to data and the development of appropriate
models and methods for analysis that allow efficiency, competition and equity to be assessed.
Outdated rules must be reformed so that data can be harnessed by individual consumers
and those that act on their behalf, community energy groups and consumer-advocates.18
It has been especially challenging for consumer advocacy groups, NGOs, and general pub-
lic to effectively participate and engage in regulatory decision-making processes. Network
operators’ submissions to regulatory process could be made available to consumer groups
and researchers for greater scrutiny. To effectively engage with these groups, they should
also provide access to appropriate analysis and modelling platforms. CEEM’s tariff analysis
tool (Box 3) provides an example of a transparent and open-source modelling platform that
can improve stakeholder engagement around electricity prices.19
Box 3: Opening the black boxes: CEEM’s Tariff Analysis Tool
CEEM’s tariff analysis tool is an example of an open source model which is accessible by stakeholders
like think tanks, community energy organisations, local councils and policy-makers.<20>
Consumers’ ability to reduce their consumption using energy efficiency and solar is altering the
distribution of revenue collection from consumers via tariffs, and has drawn attention to apparent
cross-subsidies from traditional electricity-consuming customers to solar ‘prosumers’, while users of
air-conditioning have also been identified as placing an unfair cost burden on other customers. Along
with emerging costs of transforming the electricity network to a more distributed model, this has driven
regulatory changes that now require network utilities to develop more cost-reflective tariffs.
17 See
18 Michel Callon and Fabian Muniesa, ‘Peripheral vision: Economic markets as calculative collective
devices.’ Organization studies, 26.8 (2005): 1229-1250.
19 Rob Passey, Navid Haghdadi, Anna Bruce & Iain MacGill, ‘Designing more cost reflective electricity
network tariffs with demand charges’, Energy Policy 109 (2017): 642-649.
However, the proprietary energy models used by network providers and their private consultants are
often complex, opaque and based on assumed variables, making it possible for the energy modellers
to exploit uncertainties within a regulatory context biased towards recovering capital expenditure on
electricity infrastructure.
To overcome this information asymmetry, CEEM’s tariff tool allows stakeholders to test different elec-
tricity network tariffs on different sets of customers and investigate the impact on users’ electricity
bills, their cost-reflectivity, and distributional impacts using anonymised load data. Because it is
open-source, the tool and results can be easily verified and can therefore facilitate transparency and
more robust regulatory decisions.
Unlike black-box and expensive proprietary energy models which are usually only available to powerful
incumbent stakeholders, open source modelling platforms can be used, expanded, scrutinised, and
verified by any interested stakeholders. This democratisation of tariff analysis is an example of how
open source tools can empower more stakeholders, improve the operation of markets, regulation and
Regulators of energy retail licenses (AER), energy reliability (AEMO) and market competition
and power (ACCC) have particularly important roles in maintaining the accountability of energy
market players. and existing so-called markets in energy services have some fundamental
problems at the retailer level: incumbent retailers have some unfair advantages selling energy
devices and services to their customers because they have energy use data that is unavailable,
or at least challenging to obtain, for other potential energy service providers.
Retailers be required to obtain opt-in permission for targeted sales.
The expansion of tools to enhance market participation of individual consumers and
community groups, created in the public interest.
Some communities of modellers be granted delegated authority to access fine-grain
energy data: good energy data requires an appropriate interface between energy users,
regulators and power providers.
Increased expert resources for regulators to enable them to access to usage and tariff
Support for open-source modelling and data transparency in regulatory decision-making
to reduce reliance on opaque analysis from private consultants.
Data for the People: The Potential of Standards
Ethical protocols of informed consent for research serve to formalise relationships through a
bureaucratic agency and assist universities in managing risks to research participants and
to their own reputation. Rights to privacy, to withdraw from research and so forth, can act as
valuable bulwarks against the abuse of the powers and privileges to access sensitive data.
But singular moments of ‘consent’ are not ideal for the dynamics of energy data research,
nor are they suitable for the digital platforms upon which much of today’s interactions take
place. Blurred boundaries between public-interest research and commercially-driven con-
sultancy (exacerbated by privatisation of public institutions and increased corporatisation of
universities) sharpen the need for consent conditional on the purpose of proposed data usage.
Data activist Paul-Olivier Dehaye has recently quipped that a lot of ‘data protection issues
come from a narrow-minded business view of personal data as commodity. Much better is
to embrace the European view, with a notion of personhood covering flows of personal data
as well’.20 This move from liberal privacy to communal personhood, he suggests is analogous
to the shift from property rights to granting rights to rivers.
Ongoing public dialogue over the trade-off between privacy concerns and the granularity and
reliability of data for analysis is required in such a shift – especially where the appropriation
of data for private gain has often occurred at the behest of government agencies. Privacy,
granularity and reliability of data for analysis and decision-making are intimately related for the
purposes of infrastructure planning. Usage data at varying temporal and spatial resolutions
is valuable to researchers, consumers and networks. For example, electricity consumption
data at specific points in the electricity network is essential to network operators and useful to
new energy business models based on sharing or aggregating consumer load and generation,
and also potentially to other market participants and researchers. Since individual household
data cannot typically be extracted from such data, there is little privacy or commercial risk
involved in releasing it. However, the same data identified by street address, while potentially
even more useful for certain purposes, requires more careful handling.
Public debate over energy data privacy often focuses on an individual’s place of residence.
This is often a result of imagining an individual household as a final fortress in an increasingly
invasively connected world. As a result, energy researchers are hamstrung by highly anony-
mised data sets, for instance limiting geographical specificity to a postcode area. There are
two primary challenges arising from this abstraction of data:
1. The first arises because the fabric of everyday life sustained through energy networks
is vastly complicated. Electricity networks do not fit neatly into postcode-shaped areas.
Aggregation of data points and the capacity to assess the impacts of decisions on the
wider network is severely limited by the lack of granularity. For instance, the contribution
of a certain customer demographics to peak demand on their local network infrastructure
requires researchers to make clear connections between household and distribution
20 See
network usage data. This connection is important because it forms the basis of significant
supply, demand and network investment decisions.
2. The second arises because of the extremely rapid growth of distributed generation such
as rooftop PV and batteries. These systems can have significant impacts on the security
of the electricity system (i.e. the ability for the system to keep working without significant
risk of power quality issues),21 however their behaviours need to be understood in the
context of their local network. Postcode level anonymisation makes this near impossible,
whereas street location or even location on a specific section of the ‘poles and wires’
would be ideal.
Just as a more communal notion of personhood can foster better data practice outcomes,
social scientists have argued that shifting the focus away from individual choice towards
collective responsibility is key to effective climate action.22 During our research, we have
observed that individual consumers do not act as rational agents without help from material
devices that enable calculation: they need apps, meters, interfaces and other market tools to
act as ‘rational actors’ in the context of competitive retail markets. Moreover, it is often only
through co-ordinated activity – selling aggregated generation from multiple small PV systems,
co-ordinating temporal shifting of their electricity use to periods of low demand or applying
the output of a collectively owned generator to their aggregated load – that they can engage
effectively with the market.
Accessing data requires careful consideration about the purpose and access rights granted
in research. Household-level electricity usage data can yield rich and diverse insights for
effective energy research for public good and bad. Consider the identification of illicit facilities
and improved network planning, yet also opportunities for well-resourced burglars to iden-
tify unattended dwellings, or for targeted advertising campaigns based on identification of
existing appliances through their usage footprints. Highlighted in the rollout of ‘smart meters’
or Advanced Metering Infrastructure across Victoria,23 similar challenges are also flagged by
the CSIRO in its ongoing Energy Use Data Model project,24 which seeks to collect an array of
data across Australia for research and consultancy purposes.25
Data misuse, targeted marketing or malicious attacks on the energy market participants
21 Debra Lew, Mark Asano, Jens Boemer, Colton Ching, Ulrich Focken, Richard Hydzik, Mathias Lange
and Amber Motley, ‘The Power of Small - The Effects of Distributed Energy Resources on System
Reliability’, IEEE Power & Energy Magazine, 15 (2017): 50-60.
22 Elizabeth Shove, ‘Beyond the ABC: climate change policy and theories of social change.’ Environment
and planning A, 42.6 (2010): 1273-1285.
23 Lockstep Consulting, ‘Privacy Impact Assessment Report Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)’,
Dept of Primary Industries, 2011.
24 CSIRO, ‘Energy Use Data Model (EUDM)’, 2015,
25 CSIRO ‘partners with small and large companies, government and industry in Australia and around the
requires vigilance and effectively resourced regulators.26 As researchers, we are mindful of
the trust we solicit when we ask for data at a time when purposeful exploitation of personal
data is a commonplace business model. If we cannot engender trust, we rightly risk losing
access to appropriate data.
The rights and responsibilities of all energy data stakeholders need to be rebalanced to
harness the power of energy data in the interests of energy users and society. Privacy is vital
but should be considered in this wider context. Policies mandating social and ethical respon-
sibilities integrated with public research and innovation,27 such as those in the EU Horizon
2020, offer one platform to address the challenge of maintaining trust. Researchers have a
responsibility to maintain security and confidentiality, through de-identification of individual
data in the context of ongoing dialogue and its potential commercial uses. A suitable con-
sent-for-purpose mechanism would support sharing of anonymised data with other public-in-
terest researchers and groups and undermine commercial exploitation of publicly-funded or
personally-sourced data.
Box 4: Making a Data Commons from Household Photovoltaic Solar Output
PVOutput is a free online service for sharing and comparing distributed photovoltaic solar genera-
tion unit output data across time. It provides both manual and automatic data uploading facilities for
households to contribute the outputs from their photovoltaic system.PVOutput began in 2010 as an
open-access commons in response to the interest and enthusiasm of many households deploying
PV to let others know of their system performance. It then, unintentionally but certainly fortuitously,
came to fill the growing need for an aggregate measurement of the contribution of photovoltaic solar
to the grid. The site has become a public resource that is used by a wide range of market partici-
pants, including those seeking to facilitate rule changes that recognise the value of distributed PV
systems, and others seeking to improve network planning. Today there are over 1.7m households in
Australia with photovoltaic solar and has played a key role in helping researchers and
other stakeholders understand the challenges and opportunities this presents.
Standards are sorely needed
Research currently requires a pragmatic approach to making sense of data. Metadata is often
incomplete or incorrect. Strings of numbers with no indication of the units of measurement
(e.g. kWh, kW or kVA) have little value. Time stamps are particularly vexatious, as inconsistent
treatment of daylight-saving periods, time zones and even time period ‘ending’ or ‘starting’
can all lead to misleading analysis outcomes. The detail on exactly what a data set contains
26 S.N. Islam, M. A. Mahmud and A.M.T. Oo, ‘Impact of optimal false data injection attacks on local
energy trading in a residential microgrid.’ ICT Express, 4.1 (2018): 30-34, DOI: http://doi:10.1016/j.
27 Richard Owen, Phil Macnaghten and Jack Stilgoe, ‘Responsible research and innovation: From science
in society to science for society, with society’, Science and public policy, 39.6 (2012): 751-760.
must be documented (and kept current) and have a clear standard across the industry.
The Australian Energy Market Operator has recently gone to great lengths to establish a data
communication standard at the utility scale,28 whilst requirements for a new register of dis-
tributed energy resource metadata is in the final stages of consultation.29 30
Box 5: The Green Button Initiative has empowered electricity consumers
‘The Green Button initiative is an industry-led effort that responds to a 2012 White House call-to-action
to provide utility customers with easy and secure access to their energy usage information in a consum-
er-friendly and computer-friendly format for electricity, natural gas, and water usage.’ <31> Inspired by
the success of the Blue Button in providing access to health records, Green Button was an initiative of
the US Chief Technology Officer that was taken up by utilities, network operators, technology suppliers
and integrators, policy makers and regulators. Green Button is a standardised API web service and a
common data format for transmission of energy data.
Standardised reporting criteria and formats enable collective knowledge-sharing.31 By stan-
dardising energy data, consumers, researchers and industry will be able to build tools and
perform analysis upon a stable platform, eliminating a wide range of common errors and
miscalculations. As such, we recommend that, through collaboration between research
groups, a standardised energy time-series data format be developed, with the following
criteria as an initial basis for discussion:
Human-readability (e.g. standardised labelling, sensible time series)
Cross-compatibility between common processing platforms (Excel, Matlab, Python, R)
Standard use of Unicode file formats for internationalisation
Development of open-source tools for standard conversions (e.g., JSON -> CSV) and
translations (e.g. labels English -> Chinese)
Standard labelling & protocols for handling missing data
Clear labelling of data types (e.g. Power, Energy, Real vs. Reactive)
Mandatory fields (e.g. period length, time)
Standardised time format (suggest addition of Unix and/or GMT timestamp for elimination
of general ambiguity)
Standardisation of time-ending data (vs. time-starting data)
Standardisation of metadata, with common fields (e.g. Location and range, Country of
origin, Postcode etc.)
Standardised procedure for de-identification and anonymisation of datasets
Standard approach for data quality assessment
28 AEMO, ‘Visibility of Distributed Energy Resources’, 2017.
29 AEMC, ‘National Electricity Amendment (Register of distributed energy resources) Rule’, 2018.
30 Green Button Alliance. ‘Green Button Data’, 2015,
31 Matthias Björnmalm, Matthew Faria and Frank Caruso. ‘Increasing the Impact of Materials in and
beyond Bio-Nano Science’, Journal of the American Chemical Society 138.41 (2016): 13449-13456,
Standard platform to validate the meta-data
Standardised data compression protocols for storage
It is also important to consider the current impact of inadequate data standards on the emerg-
ing market for distributed energy resources. A lack of clear data formats may represent a
significant barrier to entry for some markets. In the Australian National Electricity Market, for
example, metering data for billing is required to be collected and distributed in a standardised
format (NEM12), as specified in detail by the Australian Energy Market Operator. This format
is however effectively non-human-readable and could be classified as a type of low-level
machine code. Interpretation of NEM12 data requires conversion to a different format before
it can be interpreted in any meaningful way, yet there are no tools provided by the market
operator to help the public interpret these files. This means that energy data in the NEM12
format is inherently opaque for the consumer; further, it means that developers of new energy
systems (which may not have the expansive IT infrastructure of their retail competitors) must
invest heavily in custom data processing software simply to be able to bill their customers.
Anecdotal evidence has suggested that these overheads can cost solar developers significant
sums in setup and metering costs, as well as lost revenues from inaccurate file conversion
(and hence miscalculated bills).
From a market design perspective, if distributed energy resources are to be integrated into
operational decision-making in restructured electricity markets, a stable, trusted and inter-
rogable data format is required so more organisations can observe or participate in the
market. Additionally, the emergence of real-time energy metering may require a rethink of
how energy is sent and received between participants. In computing terms, these protocols
are generally referred to as APIs (application programming interfaces) - broadly, languages
and protocols that are used to send messages between smart meters, cloud infrastructure,
market participants and consumers.
Data retrieval services have historically been designed by a mixture of hardware and software
developers, as well as regulators and operators (such as AEMO in the Australian context),
using diverse languages and designs, which may have different security, frequency and for-
matting characteristics. This means that enforcement of security, reliability and data quality is
incredibly difficult across existing meters and platforms. All is not lost however, as the rollout
of smart metering infrastructure is still in its infancy in many parts of Australia and the rest of
the world. We believe that a regulator-enforced, set of clear standards for the transmission of
energy data from energy meters to cloud infrastructure would enable adequate security and
clarity as the proportion of internet-connected meters grows.
The impetus for such standards becomes clearer when we examine the coming wave of con-
trollable, dispatchable energy resources such as batteries. Without a standardised language
with which these devices can communicate, control of a large proportion of the electricity
network may fall to a cloistered, privately controlled and relatively small subset of stakehold-
ers, namely the manufacturers of popular distributed energy resource devices. It appears
reasonable to ask that devices connected to a national electricity network be required to
allow regulators or operators access to ensure stability of supply; such access would require
the development of a set of standardised formats for these different stakeholders to share
worthwhile data to enable new community enterprises to flourish and wrest power from the
Maintain appropriate privacy in the context of existing information and power asymme-
tries with a view to opening up a more communal notion of personhood upon which
trustworthy data sharing may occur.
Learn from other successful delegated authorities in other countries: make consumers
aware of benefits of good governance. For example, in Nepal there are representative
committees at community level that can make decisions on behalf of others.
Some communities of modellers be granted delegated authority to access fine-grain
energy data. Good energy data requires an appropriate interface between energy users,
regulators and power providers.
We underscore
The importance of creating a process for communities to access data and enable studies
based on energy use data.
That good data is embedded in good governance. Community energy projects need to
build their authority to make decisions.
The need for ongoing dialogue about how and where data is used. Analysis can discov-
er new valuable insights that may require consent to be re-evaluated - one form isn’t
Researchers have responsibility to act in the public interest when using public funds
or public data and be mindful of data security and anonymity, and the importance of
allowing broad access to their algorithms, data, assumptions and findings.
The operators and regulators of an increasingly complex energy system have a duty to the
public interest, which requires them to be transparent about their decision-making process.
This means clearly stating their assumptions, allowing access to their data, and opening up
their models for testing and scrutiny. Similarly, researchers and academics, often working with
public money, must champion open modelling, share their data generously and communicate
their findings broadly to break open the struggle between neoliberal rationality on one hand
and individual privacy on the other.
Our recommendations may not seem radical. However, energy debates have been shaped
by a range of political constraints: the opacity of market design decisions, slow speed of
rule changes, an increasing political disconnect between voter opinion and administrative
decision-making in electricity market design, and especially the polarised nature of policy
debates about the suitable role for Australian institutions in addressing climate change mit-
igation obligations.
Political advocacy aimed at challenging these various constraints remains a profound chal-
lenge. Traditional political advocacy focused on building coalitions, writing letters, protesting
and so forth remains vital to reforming energy politics, but it has also proved entirely insuf-
ficient. Political advocacy can be complemented with what Donald MacKenzie has termed
‘technopolitics’: an attention to details of policy designs that may be highly consequential to
the efficacy or otherwise of political interventions such as climate change policies.32
Climate change debates demonstrate that simply sharing evidence is insufficient to swaying
political opinion. A growing body of Science and Technology Studies literature shows, instead,
that evidence-making is situated in peculiar contexts according to the issues considered and
audience. Evidence is contextual,33 and this is consequential to how distinctions between
technology and politics are drawn, how and why coalitions around energy policies succeed
or fail to affect political power structures. Our energy data manifesto should be read in this
context – a call for a new energy society.
AEMC. ‘Final Rule Determination: National Electricity Amendment (Customer access to information
about their energy consumption)’, 2014.
AEMC. ‘National Electricity Amendment (Register of distributed energy resources) Rule’, 2018.
AEMO. Power System Data Communication Standard, 2018.
AEMO. ‘Integrated System Plan’, 2018.
AEMO. ‘Visibility of Distributed Energy Resources’, 2017.
Björnmalm, Mattias, Matthew Faria and Frank Caruso. ‘Increasing the Impact of Materials in and
beyond Bio-Nano Science’ Journal of the American Chemical Society 138.41 (2016): 13449-13456.
Callon, Michel and Fabian Muniesa. ‘Peripheral vision: Economic markets as calculative collective
devices’, Organization studies 26.8 (2005):1229-1250.
CSIRO. ‘Energy Use Data Model (EUDM)’, 2015,
Green Button Alliance. ‘Green Button Data’, 2015,
32 Donald MacKenzie, ‘Constructing Carbon Markets: Learning from Experiments in the Technopolitics
of Emissions Trading Schemes’, in A. Lakoff (ed.), Disaster and the Politics of Intervention, New York:
Columbia University Press, 2010, pp. 130-149.
33 Catherine Trundle, ‘Biopolitical endpoints: Diagnosing a deserving British nuclear test veteran.’ Social
Science & Medicine 73.6 (2011): 882-888.
International Energy Agency. ‘Digitization and Energy’, 2017
Islam, S. N., M. A. Mahmud and A.M.T. Oo. ‘Impact of optimal false data injection attacks on local
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... Individuals and collectives should have access to, control over and opportunities to use their own data to promote sustainable, communal living, including communal sharing for community decision-making and selfgovernance and self-determination (see Lovett et al. 2019;Ho and Chuang 2019). Data collection, analysis and use must be orchestrated and mediated by and for data subjects and communities advancing their data and technological sovereignty, rather than determined by those in power (Kuch et al. 2019;Mann et al. 2020). AI, constructed by communities, should be designed to assist community participation in data-related decision-making and governance. ...
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A socio-technical transitions theory approach is used to consider the extent to which network operators in Western Australia are perceived as facilitating, or blocking, a transition towards a distributed generation-based network. A total of 48 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with community, industry and government representatives were performed in 2015. This research finds that network operators are perceived as ‘pushing back’ on distributed generation by increasing the complexity, cost and unreliability of connection applications, by restricting further connection of distributed generation to the network, and by requiring consumers to invest in technology for grid protection. Interview respondents suggest network operators do this because: distributed generation creates technical issues at the distribution-scale of the network; distributed generation can reduce financial revenue for the network operator; as a response to a lack of strategic direction on how network operators should respond to distributed generation; and due to a ‘risk averse’ engineering culture that rejects the unknown. Government intervention may be required to direct network operators to address technical implications of increased distributed generation and redevelop tariff models to allow fair cost recovery of network assets. However, government intervention may lead to adverse outcomes, including in relation to the cost-recovery of state-owned assets.
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Governance arrangements for electricity industries commonly claim the interests of consumers as their paramount objective. This would suggest a key decision making role for energy users, in all their diversity. However, the industry's critical role in societal, welfare, large environmental impacts, and the challenges of ensuring it's secure and reliable operation, all represent key shared long-term interests requiring high levels of coordination. The role of energy users within many electricity industries has transitioned over time from clients to citizens, then to consumers and now, in restructured industries, to customers. Increasingly, however, emerging distributed energy technologies including photovoltaics, storage and 'smart' loads are offering energy users new industry roles as prosumers rather than just consumers, and utility business partners, or potentially even utility competitors, ratherthan just customers. This paper outlines some of the experiences of energy users in the Australian National Electricity Market over the past decade as more than 15% of households have installed PV systems, and incumbent industry stakeholders and policy makers have struggled to reconcile formal market principles of encouraging energy user participation, with the realities of what such participation can do to existing business models. Australia's experience holds broader relevance as electricity industries worldwide look to better manage the challenges posed by prosumers while facilitating the societal benefits they can bring, particularly with the growing capabilities and falling costs of PV and energy storage systems. More generally, facilitating greater engagement with energy users will likely be essential in establishing the societal consensus required for the profound and highly disruptive transformation to a cleaner energy future.
This is an exciting time for the field of bio-nano science: enormous progress has been made in recent years, especially in academic research, and materials developed and studied in this area are poised to make a substantial impact in real-world applications. Herein, we discuss ways to leverage the strengths of the field, current limitations, and valuable lessons learned from neighboring fields that can be adopted to accelerate scientific discovery and translational research in bio-nano science. We identify and discuss five interconnected topics: (i) the advantages of cumulative research; (ii) the necessity of aligning projects with research priorities; (iii) the value of transparent science; (iv) the opportunities presented by " dark data " ; and (v) the importance of establishing bio-nano standards.