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We are seeking feedback on a proposed model for data licensing in the Open Energy ecosystem. This encompasses two policies that unite the processes of determining who can access a particular dataset (access rules) and what can be done with that dataset (capability grants). Comments are welcomed from all energy sector organisations. The consultation may be of particular relevance to policy and legal professionals in the energy and/or data sectors. Feedback will be used to shape the Open Energy Data Licensing Model. This consultation is open until the end of day on 24 June 2021 and can be accessed here.


This is the third in a series of Open Energy policy consultations during Phase 3 (February-July 2021) of project development. Previous consultations covered the establishment of a system of Data Sensitivity Classes and a range of Data Access Conditions. Final versions of these policies, incorporating consultation feedback, can be found here [Data Sensitivity Classes] and here [Data Access Conditions].  

This consultation now aims to gather respondents’ views on two further policies:

  1. the creation of data access rules
  2. the association of capabilities with access rules.

These policies are presented jointly for consultation as they unite the processes of determining who can access a particular dataset and what can be done with that dataset. Together they form the Open Energy data licensing model.

Creating access rules

The previous consultation on Data Access established a set of conditions (e.g. group-based access, payment-based access etc.) which may be considered when determining who can access a dataset. To facilitate this policy, we propose a system whereby access and capability grants are determined, for each request to a Data Provider’s API, on the basis of a set of rules defined and published by that Data Provider

Access rules are constructed by the Data Provider and described transparently on the metadata file. Data Providers may create access rules on the basis of two sources of information about the Data Consumer making the request: 

  1. Information held by Open Energy – e.g. the type of organisation that the Data Consumer represents or whether the Data Consumer is a member of a certain group.
  2. Information held by the Data Provider outside the Open Energy ecosystem – e.g. payment records or bilateral agreements.

Open Energy will permit two types of access rules: definitive and indicative. Definitive rules stipulate that a Data Consumer satisfying the stated conditions will be given access to data. Indicative rules stipulate that a Data Consumer satisfying the stated conditions may be given access, subject to assessment by the Data Provider. For example, an indicative access rule may require the Data Provider to check the existence/validity of a commercial agreement with the Data Consumer prior to granting access.

In all cases, if a Data Provider refuses access they must be able to demonstrate a justifiable reason for doing so. Data Consumers can challenge access refusals through a dispute-resolution mechanism if this is required (to be developed in more depth beyond Phase 3).

Associating access rules with capabilities

Once an access rule is established, Data Consumers can start to make API calls. The data returned from a call must be licensed. A data license is a legal instrument setting out what a Data Consumer can do with a particular artifact (e.g. dataset). This grants certain ‘capabilities’ to the Data Consumer, comprising a clear expression of things they can do with the artifact. Capability grants are accompanied by details of any obligations that the Data Consumer must abide by when exercising a capability. 

Example: the capability to redistribute (‘onward share’) an artifact may be accompanied by the obligation to credit the author(s) of the original artifact. 

In the Open Energy ecosystem we propose that licensing is expressed as the grant of a set of capabilities and associated obligations, scoped to the results of a single API call and verified through a non-repudiable digital signature.

In practice this means that, when a Data Provider establishes an access rule, they specify a set of associated capabilities and obligations. The capability grant will be returned as part of the results of the API call in a manner that is cryptographically bound.

This model is different from the single licensing approach – using one license to govern all scenarios for use of a particular dataset – that is currently commonly used in the energy sector.

So why are we proposing a different model?

Industry feedback has identified that single licensing can produce very long and complex licensing agreements – generating friction, cost, and risks associated with license miscomprehension. In response to these concerns, Open Energy research identified an alternative model that permits dual or multiple licensing of an artifact, whereby each individual license is kept as simple as possible. This model is more commonly used in data science and software development communities. For example, dual licensing enables software code to be released for free under one license, then to paying customers under a more permissive license.

Our approach accepts that a degree of license pluralism is necessary, and indeed valuable, in supporting a diversity of data types, actors and use-cases within the energy data ecosystem. While we are aware this may raise questions regarding license proliferation and/or opacity, our approach can reduce these risks by rationalising and standardising the parameters in which licensing occurs.

To do this, Open Energy will work to standardise a range of capabilities, the legal text governing how these capabilities are expressed, and the ‘human-readable’ ways in which these capabilities are communicated to Data Consumers. Beyond Phase 3, we will also develop guidance for Data Providers to encourage simplicity and discourage unnecessary protectionism, while also maintaining appropriate protections for higher sensitivity classes of data. 

Further details of the model, worked example scenarios, and clarification responses to common questions are outlined in the consultation document for consideration.

How can you help?

We are seeking feedback on the proposal through our consultation here. It will take around 60 minutes to read and respond. The consultation explores questions including: 

  • Do you have any feedback on the proposed method of creating access rules and associated capability grants?
  • Are there any capabilities not outlined in the consultation that Open Energy should consider?
  • Are there any other obligations not outlined in the consultation that Open Energy should consider?

The consultation is open until the end of day on 24 June 2021 and responses are encouraged from all actors in the energy sector, or who work with energy and related data. Any queries should please be directed to