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Scottish Power leads on midata

Posted on: Thursday 17th of May 2012

Today, Scottish Power becomes the first company to start releasing data back to customers as part of the midata programme.  Midata is a UK Government-backed initiative to encourage companies to release data back to customers in a portable electronic format so they can use this data for their own purposes. Ctrl-Shift is advising the Department of Business on midata.

We spoke to Andrew Ward, Operations Director at Scottish Power, about its involvement in midata.

What are you doing?

We are releasing customer consumption histories in an electronic format, so they can take their own information to find the best product to suit their particular lifestyle. What we’re doing will make switching much easier for customers. We’re doing it so they can see their own consumption data, whenever and wherever they want to, via their mobile devices.

How do customers access this data?

For security concerns they have to log on to their account on the Scottish Power website. There, they can see a summary of their consumption, and they can select to receive it electronically. At the moment, it’s in the form of a CSV file. We debated using an XML format and we might introduce that later, but this is the format that the Energy Retail Association have agreed upon for all suppliers.

So what’s in it for the customer, and what’s in it for you?

Consumers have access to their own data and they can use it to understand their own consumption better and to switch suppliers if they want to. We’re making switching much easier.

In the UK energy suppliers have come under a lot of questioning, for example, in terms of the transparency of the information we give customers. We take transparency extremely seriously.

Scottish Power wants to be a responsible supplier. In the UK Ofgem [the energy regulator] has asked energy companies to make switching easier, and we’re leading the pack in doing so. We are extremely supportive of midata.

But if you make switching easier, customers might switch away from you. So what’s in it for you?

We think we will benefit by demonstrating responsibility. Our customers can see we’re really trying to help them make use of their data.

So what do you think this market will look like in two to three years time?

Midata’s role is going to increase significantly as smart meters start collecting large quantities of data. For example, customers will be able to see their energy consumption in 30 minute intervals rather than quarterly or annual windows. The uses of the data and the services that are made possible will evolve rapidly. We are already conducting an experiment where 30,000 customers are using smart meters. We can already see how, just by being able to see what energy they are using, customers are changing their behaviour.

On the other hand, all customers are different. Some can’t really change from what they are already doing. We are working hard to understand these differences.

So what next?

As I said, Scottish Power is leading the pack. At the moment, all we want to see is customer feedback – to see how many customers use the data, and how they use it. We want to listen to what they tell us so please tweet ScottishPower @ SP_EnergyPeople. Then we’ll decide what to do next.