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UKPN: Social Connect

Up to 100,000 people in danger of struggling with their fuel bills will be proactively offered support and guidance, thanks to a new partnership led by UK Power Networks called Social Connect.

Energy Systems Catapult is working with the UK’s largest electricity Distribution Network Operator (DNO) using sophisticated data software to identify households across London, the East and South East who may need extra support, now and in the future.

The Challenge

Research by Citizens Advice expects an additional 600,000 consumers to enter into fuel poverty due to COVID-19. In addition, a continued increase in the prices of natural gas is expected to drive a rise in the number of consumers in need of assistance.

UK Power Networks is aiming to help seven times more customers facing fuel poverty* as it currently does – rising from 14,000 per year to 100,000.

UKPN doesn’t set energy bills but it offers energy efficiency advice to help people reduce their energy use, and tailored advice to help customers access government grants or support from its 223 charity partners.

The Innovation

The Social Connect project will use artificial intelligence and data science techniques to combine the UKPN information, existing fuel poverty insight, along with smart meter data supplied by households, and geographical and socio-economic statistics.

The AI system produced by software firm Urban Tide, will bring these data sets together into one simple dashboard which gives an accurate picture of who may need help, especially in areas where people are less likely to come forward and ask for support.

The Solution

Energy Systems Catapult will draw on insight about behaviours, as well as smart data, allowing the Social Connect project to pioneer methods of working with fuel poor households to design support for them.

The methods developed can then be used to ensure that consumers across the UK can benefit from the opportunities of the smart flexible energy future.

The project will run until December 2022. Its first steps will be to research and evaluate new data sources, before designing and developing the data science tools to build the dashboard.

Fair Futures

Helping governments, regulators, businesses and consumer advocates to better understand and reduce vulnerability to fuel poverty, by designing smarter consumer protections for policies, regulations and innovations.

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