Pylons, sunset, electricity lines, energy

This blog was co-authored by Greg Johnston, Senior Digital & Data Consultant at Energy Systems Catapult.

Ethical data use is essential as the energy transition gains momentum and the sector goes digital. Data ethics evaluates data practices that could potentially harm people and society - covering data collection, use and sharing.

Using the Data Ethics Canvas, the ODI has embedded data ethics into UK Power Networks (UKPN) data triage process as part of its broader data strategy. This shows how creating good data governance processes - with data ethics at their heart - helps to build trust, enable sharing and protect privacy.

This success can be replicated across the energy sector, applying UKPN’s methodologies to achieve more significant synergies. Ofgem can help by including data ethics as a guiding principle in their Data Best Practice guidance.

The ODI worked with the Energy Systems Catapult to suggest a new principle around data ethics that can support data practitioners in the energy sector to treat data ethically. This principle is partly derived from conversations that we had with stakeholders in our collaborative project for Innovate UK, developing a data policy for their Net Zero domain.

Our new suggested principle is:

Ensure that data assets, metadata and software scripts are collected, used or shared with due consideration for data ethics.

With this new principle, licensees must:

  • ensure that where data assets, metadata or software scripts are collected, used or shared by the organisation, ethical implications of their collection, use or sharing are assessed.
  • document the ethical assessment, as well as any changes or mitigations made to the collection, use or sharing of data assets, metadata and software scripts, as a result of the assessment.
  • include any relevant information for its ethical use or sharing by data users when providing supporting information regarding a data asset.

Through its adoption, the intended outcome could be:

  • the licensee can demonstrate that data assets, metadata and software scripts held by the licensee will be collected, used or shared ethically by the organisation.
  • the licensee also provides sufficient information to data users to ensure they can also use or share the data assets, metadata and software scripts ethically.
  • stakeholders trust that data assets are respected by the organisation and that data ethics risks are avoided.
  • derived insights from data assets should be created and presented in such a way that ethical considerations of the data assets are understood by stakeholders.

We encourage you to read and share this widely and to consider responding to Ofgem’s consultation, which closes on 14th April 2023.