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VENICE findings back data-led approach to tackle customer vulnerability

A pioneering innovation project to analyse the impact of the pandemic and cost of living crisis on customers’ energy behaviours is now helping to formulate a data-led approach to identify and support customers in vulnerable situations.

The Vulnerability and Energy Networks, Identification and Consumption Evaluation (VENICE) project was launched in July 2021.

Using smart meter data, we discovered that, while changes in customer behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic had minimal impact on consumer bills, the cost of living crisis led to a large reduction in gas and electricity use. This fell by 14% and 8% respectively between October and December 2022. In that time, a quarter of the surveyed households reduced their energy consumption by more than 20%. It also found that fuel poverty during the same period increased by more than 3%, from 12.5% to 15.7%. Households with elderly people saw the most dramatic rise with more than 35% of these being pulled into fuel poverty. We’re now using this data to focus our future outreach activities to include fuel-poor households that need the most help.

In partnership with energy consultancy Frazer-Nash, the project also harnessed smart meter data to look for gaps in our Priority Services Register and develop a data-led approach to detecting vulnerable customers on its network. We’re now evaluating how the developed models can improve outreach activities to customers most in need.

VENICE also looked at how network data can support community energy groups to guide customers through the net zero transition. We’ve identified community energy groups as a key player in supporting the adoption of low carbon technologies, such as solar power, electric vehicles and heat pumps, to ensure no one is left behind in the smart energy revolution.

Together with partners including the Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network, University of Exeter, Planet A, Community Energy Plus and Centre for Energy Equality, National Grid analysed different paths to net zero to see how local communities can best hit the 2050 net zero target. The project led to the development of a new data tool - the ‘Future Energy Tool for Communities’ - which gives communities a model of their current carbon impact and allows groups to test out different community interventions to reduce carbon emissions. More information on National Grid’s support for community energy can be found here.

Commenting on the findings of VENICE, National Grid’s Innovation Engineer Liza Troshka said: “All three strands of the VENICE project yielded useful outcomes for National Grid as we look to rapidly facilitate the introduction of renewable technologies across our network while ensuring that no customer is left behind in the low carbon transition, particularly those in vulnerable situations. The project found that smart meter data can play an important role in identifying customers in vulnerable situations and that our network data can be an invaluable resource for community energy groups. We are looking forward to exploring further how smart meter data can help National Grid identify and engage with vulnerable customers across the network.”

For more information about VENICE as well as other National Grid innovation projects please visit this page.