LoRaWAN sensor display

Building a data cooperative

Over the past few months we’ve been developing a data cooperative model for small energy cooperatives in partnership with Manchester based Carbon Coop and supported through the ODI’s Data Infrastructure Stimulus Fund. The aim of the project is to explore if a cooperative model of data custodianship could allow members energy data to be collected, used and shared more effectively both within and outside the cooperative, returning value to the individual member, the cooperative and wider society.

There is a growing interest in data trusts that could act as custodians and trusted intermediaries for people’s data, controlling how data is shared and ensuring its is used appropriately for agreed purposes and benefit. Data cooperatives have a similar function to data trusts, but due to their intrinsic governance, democratic decision-making and ownership structures, the relationship that cooperative members have with the organisation is much closer and often more ethically and motivationally aligned. This affinity could be a basis for trustworthy collection, pooling and sharing of data. The cooperative could also raise the understanding of data and its use so that the members can make better informed decisions.

Creating more informed members who can be confident that the cooperative is looking after their interests has the potential to increase data quality through better context and understanding between the members and the cooperative, and could increase the supply of other relevant data.

Domestic energy

We know that our energy usage contributes to climate change through the greenhouse gas emissions produced through the generation of electricity or burning of fossil fuels, and domestic consumption is responsible for approximately 26% of the total UK energy consumption. Changing how we use domestic energy can potentially have a sizeable impact on our emissions.

Although the UK’s energy cooperatives represent a tiny fraction of the domestic energy market, their memberships are generally committed to more environmentally sustainable usage with the cooperatives developing services that help their members reduce their energy footprint. Services to this end such as home retrofits, microgeneration, energy efficiency advice and in some cases energy supply are part of the diversity of services offered. Many cooperatives also undertake research and development programmes and act as a testbed for new energy services.

Our energy data

As energy users we create a wealth of data often without realising it. If we have a smart meter, much of this data is collected by our energy providers to enable them to understand demand and energy usage patterns. This helps them reduce the costs of buying energy on the wholesale energy market which can, but not always, result in reduced bills for the consumer. Through developing the data cooperative model we hope to give members more control over their energy data, so it can be used for more ethical and energy efficient purposes, bringing value to members through the creation of reduced bills, the cooperative through development of better services and wider society through more environmentally responsible energy use.

Potential uses for energy related data could be: understanding the different energy characteristics of households – allowing benchmarking and identification of optimal energy saving solutions; enabling the generation patterns of solar panels and neighbourhood energy usage to be paired – creating the potential for local smart grids; and the creation of more granular energy consumption data that could be used for behavioural analysis. All the above could be better enabled if the energy user could trust and be confident that data would be used properly, which hopefully will be the role of the energy data cooperative.

Want to help us make this happen?

Through a series of interactive workshops, we will test the idea that this new kind of organisational model will help people take control of their energy data so that it can be used to create more effective, trusted and ethical services for everyone.

For more information about this project or to be involved, get in touch through our contact form.

Workshop dates:

Introduction to Data

  1. What is data and what does it tells us about where we live?
    Thursday 17th September 2020, 6.30pm – 8pm
  2. Data about ourselves and how to look after it
    Thursday 24th September 2020, 6.30pm – 8pm

Designing a Data Co-operative

  1. Designing an ethical way to share data (workshop 1)
    Thursday 1st October 2020, 6.30pm – 8pm
  2. Designing an ethical way to share data (workshop 2)
    Thursday 15th October 2020, 6.30pm – 8pm

Managing a Data Co-operative

  1. How do we manage a data cooperative? (workshop 1)
    Thursday 19th November 2020, 6.30pm – 8pm
  2. How do we manage a data cooperative? (workshop 2)
    Thursday 21st January 2020, 6.30pm – 8pm