OFGEM “Future of Energy” conference in Manchester, on 5 February, was a major event in the 2019 energy calendar.

The third of four such events was at capacity of over 150 people, not just from the ‘traditional’ energy industry – suppliers and network companies – but innovative technology companies, like Chameleon Technology, as well as charities on the front line who are directly transforming lives in the UK’s most disadvantaged communities. University professors and students, investors, global companies and SMEs joined together to hear from Ofgem and other speakers about vulnerability, consumer engagement and new technologies. Creating solutions to support vulnerable consumers was also a prevalent theme through the whole day.

Frances Williamson, Chameleon’s Head of Communications and Industry Engagement said “There was a lot of discussion and debate, lots of use cases to demonstrate how the industry can help all customers, and especially customers in vulnerable circumstances. There was a strong sense that we really are on the cusp of an energy revolution; with digitalisation and consumer-oriented solutions, innovation, new technologies, market changes and competition changing both the industry and how customers relate to energy.”

‘Projecting the energy transition’ was Ofgem’s Chair, Martin Cave, Chair of Ofgem, keynote speech focus. Martin advised that balancing the grid and storage are key areas of Ofgem’s future regulatory focus, as well as smart meters and half-hourly settlement, as together these allow consumers to buy and use energy at different times. The evolving role of peer-to-peer energy and the principal of fairness in energy tariffs were part of his talk and the Q&A.

National Energy Action and Groundworks were part of Mary Starks’ (Executive Director of Ofgem) panel discussion on the “Challenges of Engaging Future Energy Consumers”. They were passionate in their view that consumers are currently “under-served” by the system and that trust remains a significant issue for the industry. The panel felt that consumers need to be able to have a “confident relationship with the unknown” and there should be stronger campaigns to achieve this. There was strong agreement across the that all technical solutions must keep end users’ needs at the center. It was also felt that the industry needs to focus on digital inclusion and that smart meters represent a great opportunity to bring technology to those who need it most.

An update from Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s Director of Environment, Mark Atherton, on their progress to become a carbon neutral city through investment in energy efficiency, air source heat pumps, community energy programmes, planning and adaptation demonstrated that with passion and the right people and plans then it is doable. And the thinking that ES Catapult’s Matt Lipson has been doing to truly engage customers showed possibilities for future tariffs that give customers choice, and a warm home.

Chameleon believes that access to real time energy data can and should help all energy consumers manage their energy use and costs better and enjoy the benefits of the digitalisation of energy. Read our position on how real-time data from smart meters can help vulnerable customers.