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MPs from Energy Security and Net Zero Committee visit smart meter network HQ in Manchester

Members of the Energy Security and Net Zero (ESNZ) Committee today visited award-winning Manchester-based Data Communications Company (DCC), the organisation which built and runs Britain’s smart meter network, following its inquiries into transitioning to a flexible energy grid, heating homes and helping households and businesses facing rising energy costs during the winter months.

Members of the cross-party Energy Security and Net Zero Committee, including its Chair Angus MacNeil MP, today visited DCC’s headquarters in Manchester, following their recent call on Government, Ofgem and the energy industry to provide more support to vulnerable households facing a new ‘winter crisis’.

DCC built and runs the country’s largest communications network, which connects smart meters in over half of Britain’s 30 million homes to energy suppliers, providing a more complete, accurate picture of their energy consumption.

This allows consumers to reduce their electricity bills by managing usage, quickly and easily switch to the best deals on offer, and access the savings offered by National Grid ESO’s Demand Flexibility Service (DFS) by avoiding the use of energy-intensive appliances during peak hours.

DCC has recently ramped up its efforts to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. Last November, it won a prestigious edie Net Zero award for developing uZero, a ground-breaking platform developed in partnership with AI company Urban Tide to tackle fuel poverty.

By integrating 26 months’ worth of anonymised real-time smart meter network data with multiple cross-sector datasets, uZero was last year able to identify and predict fuel poor areas across the UK and help local authorities, housing associations, energy providers and social care providers to better target support – for example, through financial support or retrofitting and insulating measures.

DCC is now working with energy suppliers to enable access to this unique data set to a further 11 organisations, including the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA). The GMCA will explore how insights from the data can enhance the accuracy of their fuel poverty programmes. They will use this data to identify ‘hidden pockets’ of fuel poverty in alignment with a £2m programme designed to provide energy advice to hard-to-reach communities.

During the visit, MPs were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the DCC’s high security, state-of-the-art headquarters Brabazon House, which includes an operations centre monitoring the nationwide smart meter roll-out live, 24/7, and our industry-leading testing facilities – with 18 test labs forming the largest dedicated testing centre for smart metering devices in Europe. MPs were impressed by not only the current benefits of the network for consumers, but also by its potential to unlock wider societal benefits, including identifying properties where poor insulation, damp and outdated heating could cause health issues, and remote digital health assessments.

Angus Flett, CEO of DCC, said:

“We at DCC are proud that policymakers recognise the critical role the smart meter network is playing in the UK’s transition to a smarter, cheaper, greener energy system. Our network’s ability to help reduce bills, empower consumers to easily switch to the best deals, adjust their energy consumption and benefit from schemes rewarding usage at low peak times is especially important in the current cost-of-living crisis, and we look forward to continuing to work with Government, regulators and industry to tackle this.”

Angus MacNeil, Chair of the ESNZ Committee, said:

“We were delighted to visit the Data Communications Company at Brabazon House in Manchester, and see first-hand the security of the smart meter network, and the benefits smart meters can bring to our homes and environment. Now and in the future, smart meters will play a significant role in many aspects of our everyday lives - helping households reduce their bills, providing real-time data on the conditions of houses which could ultimately help the NHS to save millions of pounds, and enabling the decarbonisation of Britain’s energy system.”

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