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Utilities Roll Out Home Energy Analytics to Over 1.5 Million

Words by Andrew Burger
Data & Technology
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Aiming to build a mass market for energy efficiency products and services, energy industry startups and established players are rolling out a range of connected demand response and demand management products and services for homes and businesses. They range from smart thermostats and home energy management apps to lighting controls, solar energy and battery storage systems.

Positioned at the leading edge of the U.S. residential solar market, SolarCity, SunPower and others are working with public and private partners to commercialize the first generation of home solar-battery storage systems, as well as link in electric vehicles (EVs) and EV charging stations. Companies such as Nest (acquired by Google in a $3.2 billion transaction this past January) are leveraging the power of cloud computing in a bid to build a mass-market home energy management platform.

SolarCity just announced it is launching a mobile app “that aims to strengthen its relationship with customers by providing real-time energy use data and creating a social network for its customers to swap stories and photos,” Forbes' Ucilla Wang reports in a Dec. 5 article.

Facing real competition from new market entrants for the first time since the dawn of electricity grids, utilities are keen to be part of the action. On the other hand, they are taking reactionary, rearguard action to stem market and environmental regulatory reforms that would accelerate the pace of change.

Cloud-based home energy analytics


Viewed as a means of reeling in and keeping prospective customers, smart home technology vendors and energy companies are turning to public outreach and customer engagement as key business development tools. On Nov. 20, Bidgely, a young clean tech company that specializes in “customer engagement and utility intelligence,” announced that London Hydro will integrate its cloud-based energy intelligence analytics with its My London Hydro customer portal.

Expected to go live in early 2015, the enhanced My London Hydro Web portal will reach over 150,000 homes, “adding appliance-level monitoring and personalized energy savings recommendations to London Hydro's portal to help the utility improve customer satisfaction and engagement levels,” Bidgely highlights in a press release.

Its first contract in Canada, the London Hydro project follows closely on the heels of a much larger deal Bidgely sealed here in the U.S. On Nov. 6, Texas electric utility TXU Energy announced that it had signed a deal to integrate its MyEnergy Dashboard with Bidgely's cloud-based energy services and advanced analytics platform.

Taken private in a $45 billion leveraged buyout (LBO) in 2007, TXU Energy will roll out its enhanced MyEnergy Dashboard across its roughly 1.5 million-strong customer base. Commenting on the announcement, Raymond James & Associates' senior vice president and equity research analyst, Pavel Molchanov, commented:

“Ranked between the United Kingdom and Italy in terms of annual power usage, Texas is a useful case study for changes in how consumers buy and manage their electricity. And with intense competition to serve the state’s 6.7 million retail electric consumers – nearly all of whom have smart meters – retail electric providers are looking to enhance their customer relationships by providing analytics that consumers can use to understand and control their power usage.”

'Disaggregating' energy usage data


TXU's project will provide valuable empirical data and insights regarding utility customer uptake and use of personalized energy management tools and analytics. This affords executives at utilities and app and platform developers, as well as investors, indications on prospects for commercial success.

The data gleaned from deploying this first generation of smart energy data and analytics platforms will be of great value in other ways. It will enable power grid operators and regulators, as well as utilities, to evaluate demand response (DR) and demand-side management (DSM) as mechanisms for enhancing the efficiency, flexibility, reliability and resiliency of U.S. power and energy infrastructure, as well as accelerate integration of renewable energy generation capacity.

The key to Bidgely's cloud-based, real-time energy analytics platform is its ability to “disaggregate” data on electricity usage within buildings and homes down to the level of individual appliances, equipment and devices without the need to install sensors or other hardware. That data can then be used to lower energy consumption and improve energy efficiency. By making that information accessible to home and building owners, it can also enhance customer engagement, or so the reasoning goes.

Results from two 2013 case studies in which Bidgely's energy analytics platform was used – one in California and another overseas – showed that average energy consumption dropped 6 percent, with a maximum of 7.4 percent and a minimum of 4.7 percent. The international study revealed high levels of customer engagement, garnering an 86 percent approval rating from users.

Bidgely management is using the results to push for market and regulatory change. “These studies aim to support the introduction of policies that open up real time data access from smart meters,” the study authors note. “Millions of these smart meters installed in field are already equipped with the right hardware but have not been enabled to deliver the above benefits.”

Image credits: Bidgely

Andrew Burger

An experienced, independent journalist, editor and researcher, Andrew has crisscrossed the globe while reporting on sustainability, corporate social responsibility, social and environmental entrepreneurship, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean technology. He studied geology at CU, Boulder, has an MBA in finance from Pace University, and completed a certificate program in international governance for biodiversity at UN University in Japan.

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