In order to keep the UK National Grid working correctly a delicate balancing act must be performed. The various units generating energy must be matched with the likely demand in order to keep the system within strict limits of frequency and voltage. When the system drifts beyond those limits bad things happen, inevitably depriving people of the energy they need.

Underpinning this process is a complex set of rules and procedures, detailed on the National grid website here. Given the scale of the UK energy market and the significance of the service, the volumes (and therefore cashflow) involved are very large. An obvious question when developing Variable Pitch was how involved wind energy producers were?

The information is available via the BMRS webiste (Elexon) which allows you to get figures for all Balancing Mechanism Units for any given date or settlement period. This had been available on Variable Pitch since Nov 2012 and showed the volumes and financial amounts involved. However, as with any set of numbers, taken out of context it was difficult to fully assess them. While the amounts paid to wind generators seem large – are they really out of proportion with those being paid to the other participants? Context is important and was lacking.

Once the lack of context had been pointed out I started looking at the available data again and started collecting additional information to allow me to provide the context that was lacking. Along the way I had to delve deeper into what the data meant in order to avoid misrepresenting it, but that required me to contact Elexon UK. Initially they were happy to answer questions, but they then delivered this statement.

The information is available, but the data is owned by Elexon and permission to reproduce will need to be obtained.

Variable Pitch has always had a strict policy about the data it uses.

Only data that is freely available and can therefore be validated from the source direct should be used.

It may not have been stated on the website (but perhaps it should be?), but that’s been the underlying policy I have always applied. All sources of data are noted on the site and no attempt is made to disguise where information comes from. As far as possible the “raw data” is available on the site. This is the minimum I feel is required for an open and honest representation.

I could contact Elexon UK and request permission to use the data, but then anyone else who wished to do likewise would need to contact them, which isn’t acceptable to me. Sadly I have reached the decision that I will have to remove all data that is sourced from their website.

To say I do this with a heavy heart is an understatement and it marks a retrograde step by decreasing the transparency and honesty with which the energy market operates. Elexon UK make money by selling the data so I can fully understand their desire to control the data, but as it relates to an industry that is an essential service it really should be freely available.

Without free and open access to such data honest, open and informed debate is impossible.