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Ofgem Midata Project – Update for REC Parties

The midata in energy project (midata) aims to enable consumers to quickly, securely and easily share their energy data with trusted third parties.

Currently, the process to enter data into a third party service relies upon a consumer having access to this information from a bill or online account, which presents a barrier for users and may cause them to end the journey prematurely. Consumers may also approximate or use inaccurate data. This leads to poor quality results of the end service and potential errors, as the service is unable to tailor to the needs of the consumer and provide them with the insights to their energy they need. Midata will enable a more accurate comparison based upon the customer’s actual details. This may be for a one off price comparison or, if a consumer chooses, they will be able to provide ongoing consent – to authorise the third party to regularly access their data and routinely provide insight into whether they are on the most suitable deal for them.

The midata service will also lead the way for innovative products and services that have not have been possible to date, which will expand and evolve with the market over time.

Activities to date

The project team completed a Target Operating Model (TOM) stage between May and August 2019. This included mapping the current data access landscape, user research with stakeholders to understand problems with the ‘as-is’ and requirements for the ‘to-be’, and identification and evaluation of options for the enduring operating model. The consumer user research conducted during this stage answered questions around what the current problem is with the as-is, the scale of the problem and who it’s a problem for – key ‘Discovery’ stage questions from an agile methodology perspective.

This user research identified two key barriers which stop consumers who start a price comparison following through to the results.

  1. Consumers don’t have the required energy information to hand or don’t know where to find it, and so drop-out of the process rather than use estimates.
  2. Consumers use best guess information or estimates and then do not trust the quotes provided so do not follow through. This included questioning whether the quote included Warm Home Discount, or whether the usage quoted accurately reflected what they actually use

The project team’s research with third parties indicated that the current data access landscape is fragmented, difficult for third parties to navigate and gain access, and offers incomplete data (i.e. some critical data for tariff comparison is unavailable). Ofgem is now also working with Gemserv and Xoserve to try to improve the existing data access arrangements as a ‘quick win’ prior to the introduction of midata.

Next steps

The next stage of work for the main midata project will be an ‘Alpha’ stage, which reflects the project team’s adoption of an agile delivery approach in line with GDS standards. The Alpha stage will have multiple work strands. The first is a Proof of Concept (PoC) that will use functional mockups to test the potential user experience barriers through the consumer journey on a PCW.  Other work streams include developing the governance and regulatory framework, progressing the architectural options and assessing issues with data flows – this final work stream will be done in collaboration with Ofgem’s Switching Programme.

Through this work Ofgem expect to make a decision on the ongoing governance of the midata framework. There are multiple options for interim and ongoing governance of the midata framework, including the Retail Energy Code (REC). At this point the REC is considered the most likely code framework for midata, however this will be considered as part of the regulatory design of midata, taking into account relevant timeframes. It is also anticipated that this work will lead to the development of service requirements that will then be tested in an Alpha service – Ofgem expect this to be done through a delivery partner working with Ofgem.

The PoC is expected to run until the end of the current financial year (2019/20), and the other workstreams will continue through the following financial year.

Using an agile, iterative, approach means that Ofgem will not be asking the RECCo Board or industry to invest in or build a midata system until they have systematically worked through the largest and most significant risks and issues. This is intended to provide Ofgem, the RECCo Board and market participants with greater certainty of delivery success and value for money.

How does midata fit within the broader policy context?

The midata project is led by Ofgem in collaboration with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). To design, develop and test the midata framework RECCo has allowed a provisional funding amount of £500,000 in its 2019/20 budget. The project has will not drawn down on the full amount; and the request for any allocation of funds for 2020/21 is being considered separately. The midata team has requested provisional funding of £250,000 in RECCo’s 2020/21 budget, which will be consulted on in early 2020.

To maximise the synergies and avoid unnecessary impact on industry, where possible, we will use existing data systems and frameworks and align with the work being done by Ofgem’s Switching Programme, and Ofgem’s mandatory Half-Hourly Settlement (HHS) programme.

What happened to the midata working groups?

Many industry stakeholders may have been involved in working groups for midata in late 2018 and early 2019. This previous approach to delivering midata relied heavily on stakeholder collaboration and input via working groups. Ofgem confirmed in March 2019 that the working groups would be suspended indefinitely, as this approach was unlikely to deliver an output that satisfied most parties while maximising consumer benefit.

When will industry be able to engage with the project team and provide input?

Ofgem will be engaging with industry on various aspects of the midata project in 2020.

For more information on the project please visit the Ofgem project page. Additionally, should you wish to receive updates directly from the project team, please email consumerdata@ofgem.gov.uk

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