How real-time energy data can take delay out of bill shock
Gavin Dietz: The Connected Home Guy
It is great to see big-three retailer EnergyAustralia publicly embracing a renewable energy future as 'a reality', as reported this week in Renew Economy.
I'm also intrigued to see them expressing concern, via CEO Catherine Tanna, about consumers and the bill shock they may feel following a 25% increase in energy usage over this intensely hot summer period.
There is, however, a line in the EnergyAustralia spiel that blows me away.
"In a couple of months when these bills turn up they (i.e. EnergyAustralia customers) are going to get a surprise and I am worried about that because I know that the cost of living is a concern for them."
Seriously, in a couple of months? That assumes EnergyAustralia actually reads their meter, and doesn't just issue an estimated bill, which happens all of the time across many retailers.
So, worst case, it could be anywhere up to a year before these consumers get an actual bill shock, by then not recalling why, or even remembering this summer. So much for any notion of in-the-moment market signals.
About 10 years ago the big banks, the Commonwealth in particular, started on a journey to refresh their banking systems - a digital revolution of sorts. They spent large amounts of money (approx. $1 Billion), which we consumers inevitably had to pay for in fees and costs
We consumers did, however, win some real change to the system and the service we receive. Suddenly transactions moved in real-time, balances were always accurate, no longer waiting on Friday's transfer to be seen on a Tuesday reconciliation in the following week.
From that flowed innovation, card-less cash transactions, mobile phone transfers and Apple Pay. There was an immediate and direct return to the consumers and a change in how we viewed traditional legacy environments.
In many ways the investment was an industry leap of faith; the banks couldn't entirely predict the rise of smart phones and online transactions, but they figured out that the future demanded faster data.
Fixing energy's data disgrace
Fast forward to 2017 in the energy industry, and in spite of many billions squandered on supposedly making the electricity system better, it's still a shambles. As I presented at Australian Utilities Week last November, my 2004 electricity bill is little different to my 2016 electricity bill, except for the inordinate amount of fees I have paid to improve a system that is barely functional in an Australian summer.
There are two points that come out of this thinking:
1. It is 2017, we live and die by data from the internet. Real-time, beneficial data that we influence and own. To allay the EnergyAustralia CEO's fears, while you are right Catherine in caring for your consumers; you and your whole industry are so wrong for not having done anything about it. Real-time energy data is available today, it requires thought, investment and a strong desire to change, but these same consumers should have been receiving bills minimum monthly, and daily or weekly if they so desired. They should be alerted immediately when their real-time daily energy is significantly higher than normal. They should know in real dollars and cents, every day, what they are consuming. From this, some at least, could have ensured that their alternative power supplies, such as solar PV, were well utilised to minimise their grid presence; while everyone could make better informed decisions about ongoing power consumption.
2. No one is talking about energy efficiency, and there's too much talk about coal. Doesn't matter if you call it 'clean coal', brown coal, black coal, new coal and old coal - no one who accepts the science of human-induced climate change wants more coal of any type. It does not make sense. We all benefit, however, from the immediate effects of energy efficiency, reduced grid demands, lower consumer bills, and a more progressive transition from coal's polluting legacy to renewables. At the very least it buys some time to allow renewable technologies to grow and continuously become better; it allows smarter use of data and digital technology to understand what is happening on the peak summer days.
During the course of 2017, working with some truly innovative partners, Wattwatchers will show and prove how all this can be achieved to the benefit of consumers and operators. We will do it outside the regulatory environment, leaving an over-engineered, bloated and inefficient regulated system dying on the kerbsides of 21st century suburbia.
I very much look forward to sharing the Wattwatchers product roadmap and energy system 'digital reform' thinking with industry leaders like Catherine Tanner and key political decision-makers like the Australian Minister for Energy and the Environment, Josh Frydenberg.
Gavin Dietz is Managing Director of Wattwatchers, an energy technology company committed to empowering consumers with real-time access to their electricity data.