UK Ofgem on data access and data licensing

Decision on data access and data licensing by UK energy regulator Ofgem from 15 November 2021

About two weeks back, the United Kingdom Ofgem regulator for electricity and gas markets released a summary of the feedback it had received during a public consultation on energy system data. The citation is:

The document details a number of stakeholder concerns and some salient responses by Ofgem — and in doing so, provides an indication of the current thinking by Ofgem. All respondents were generally supportive (p1). There is also a parallel review being undertaken on data and digital monopolies.

Ofgem is clearly promoting the idea that data from the UK energy sector should be open wherever possible — and more specifically, for data arising from electricity and gas transmission and distribution network operators and the electricity system operator.

Into the detail

Some comments follow based on my initial reading. The abbreviation “openmod” used here to indicate the Open Energy Modelling Initiative.

The document is “principles‑based” and the underlying criteria therefore provide a strong focus. For instance:

  • Ofgem promotes the concepts of “open data triage” and “presumed open” — I took “presumed open” to mean that the data in question should be automatically public and suitably licensed in the absence of other considerations

  • one criteria of assessment is “would benefit … the Public Interest” — this is an important consideration (and one the European Commission is also currently working up in its proposed Data Act)

  • Ofgem comments that during the public consultation “Stakeholders noted that Licensees should be able to evaluate if capturing and publishing data is economic and efficient” (p6) — I believe this assessment should be undertaken in the widest possible context and suitable remuneration streams established, otherwise vitally important information may well remain ghettoed with attendant high social cost (as happens with IEA national energy data at present)

  • the Open Data Institute (ODI) recommendation on choice of license is explicitly referenced via footnote 7 thus:

  • ODI favor the Creative Commons CC‑BY‑4.0 license for general data use by my reading — while noting the ODI advice is nearly a decade old

Legislative change is also hinted at:

  • “This will allow [Ofgem] to monitor and create an evidence base to target any potential future changes to legal frameworks that are prohibitive to Open Data.” (p9)

Questions regarding metadata and data semantics thread through the document too:

  • support for Dublin Core metadata element set is traversed but no direct recommendation is forthcoming — the Dublin Core is particularly important for the openmod community because it supports metadata that captures the original creators (#3), subsequent contributors (#1), the publishing entity (#9), and the legal rights “held in and over the resource” (#11). Element #11 is where copyright and database rights can be claimed and then licensed under a CC‑BY‑4.0 open license, for instance.

  • support for the IEC Common Information Model is similarly traversed but this formalized data description for electrical networks is proprietary and paywalled and thus not suitable as a foundation standard (the LF Energy initiative also faces this exact same conundrum too) (and another example of proprietary licensing by a quasi‑public body being socially detrimental)

Indeed, Ofgem comment (emphasis added):

  • “[G]iven the principles-based approach we have taken to developing the DBP [data best practice] we have not incorporated specific industry requirements such as Dublin Core or Common Information Models at this time” (p8)

Other issues raised include:

  • “software scripts” — not defined but seen to be a central issue (I remain a bit puzzled about the term but guess these are processing scripts that automate data selection and curation tasks)

  • “old data” — and the resources needed to clean and align legacy information and who should pay

  • “deanonymization” — and who should bear the risk if published aggregated data is indeed reverse engineered: “Some stakeholders raised that there may be a risk that sensitive information could be derived from an aggregation of various open data assets.” (p8)

Returning to data licensing, Ofgem indicate (p10) (with the correct SPDX identifiers and version numbers added by me):

Presumed Open must be published with an Open Data Licence7 : Published data must include an Open Data Licence so it is clear to Data Users what it can be used for. An existing license, such as CC‑BY‑4.0, CC0‑1.0, or OGL‑UK‑3.0, should be used to ensure standardisation across open data licenses.

And Ofgem later opine (p11):

While we view the Open Data Licence suggestion as an important aspect in the development of a more coherent data landscape in energy, we do not, at present, have sufficient information to mandate a specific Open Data Licence for use by Licensees.

For the record, the following classes of data are indicated in relation to an upcoming review of data and digital monopolies (p16):

  • aggregators
  • central switching service
  • data communications company (DCC)
  • day-ahead data
  • electric vehicle data
  • generators
  • local energy markets
  • low voltage (LV) data assets
  • market exchange operators (eg, APX, N2EX)
  • Open Energy (possibly a reference to the Icebreaker One data brokerage platform?)
  • products and services paid for by charges to market participants
  • retail energy code (REC)
  • smart meter data
  • software providers (back-office solutions)
  • suppliers
  • transmission data assets

Technical observations on my part

Some technical observations:

  • the term “common information model” is interpreted in its computer science context and not in its electrical engineering context in footnote 6 and that appears to be an oversight by the authors

  • the licensing of metadata was not covered (I normally advocate the Creative Commons CC0‑1.0 public domain dedication)

  • among western democracies, English law provides the greatest natural protection for datasets, the United States the least, and the EU falls some somewhere between — which means that explicit and clear public licensing is particularly necessary in the United Kingdom. Indeed, specifying CC‑BY‑4.0 licensing on the data and CC0‑1.0 dedications on the metadata is a workable solution in my assessment. That view is widely held within the openmod community too but is not necessarily universal.

  • the German BNetzA SMART site has used CC‑BY‑4.0 licensing quite successfully for some years now

In summary, I am personally pleased to see this current direction of travel toward open by Ofgem. And wish Ofgem every success in shepherding these issues along.

1 Like
Text and images licensed under CC BY 4.0Data licensed under CC0 1.0Code licensed under MITSite terms of serviceOpenmod mailing listOpenmod wiki.