Changes to Australia’s energy industry are set to drive innovation in smart city technologies.
THE Australian energy sector is due to undergo extensive changes designed to embrace smarter technology.
While certain similar initiatives in the industry have failed in the past, a move towards a more efficient use of utilities through smart technology remains greatly needed.
Changes ushered in by the Australian Energy Market Commission will come into effect in December 2017, in a push designed to open up competition in metering services and give consumers more opportunities to access a wider range of services.
The move is about driving innovation and means by the end of next year retailers in the national electricity market will have responsibility for metering, making new products and services available to customers.
Included in the measures is the requirement that all new electricity meters will be smart meters, as opposed to the traditional accumulation meter. The difference being that smart meters transmit data about your electricity use in real time, allowing both energy retail providers and households to design innovative techniques to save power and reduce household bills.
Adrian Clark is the CEO of energy management company Landis+Gyr which recently launched its Australian-based subsidiary intelliHUB.
For Mr Clark it’s all “about using the latest technology to transform the utility industry” in what he views as the first major step towards creating smart cities in Australia.
“Parties like ourselves are preparing for those changes and trying to empower electricity retailers in particular to enrich their offering,” he told news.com.au.
“Electricity is usually the fundamental platform from which most utilities around the world have started their smart cities journey and I think that will be the case here in Australia as well.”
The idea around smart technology initiatives is that by providing access to a wealth of data around consumption and performance it will allow energy distributors — poles and wires companies — to maximise the efficiency of the grid, ideally driving benefits to the end consumer as well as providing a more environmentally friendly industry.
The recently launched intelliHUB is the only Australian-based metering technology company to attain full meter and meter data provider accreditation from the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).
“The AEMO Meter and Meter Data Provider accreditation means our subsidiary intelliHUB is now ready to partner with energy retailers. This will help retailers ensure consumers have access to the latest technology so they can manage the amount and cost of electricity consumed from the grid,” Mr Clark said.
“It also means residents with solar panels can use smart meters to better utilise the power they generate, and they can be assured in our commitment to provide them with greater choice in the way they use and monitor energy.”
The key to monitoring energy use is smart meters, however the history of smart meters in Australia has been a rocky and rather controversial one.
Adrian Clark, CEO of Landis+Gyr.Source:Supplied
In 2006 the Victorian government mandated the introduction of smart meters to all homes in the state to the tune of $2.2 billion at the expense of the taxpayer.
Despite the hefty price tag, and seemingly good intentions, a report released by the Victorian Auditor-General in September 2015 found there was “no overall benefit to consumers”.
The report, which was tabled in parliament, found that the power companies which no longer had to manually read the consumption meters were the main beneficiaries of the rollout. It also found that many customers were unaware of the potential benefits provided by smart meters and the flexible pricing offers associated with them.
And therein lies the rub.
In the wake of the report’s release, Monash University’s Stephen King wrote a piece in The Conversation titled Smart Meters, Dumb Policy in which he suggested that “smart meters are only economic if they lead to customers changing their behaviour.”
Mr Clarke admits that if you’re looking solely at the immediate metering benefits (mainly that they can be read remotely) it can be a “challenging business case” to make.
But smart tech is all about putting the power in the hands of those who use it.
“The move to a more data rich world and more timely access to information that’s the real step change,” he said. “If you only have one data point per quarter, it’s just not possible to do some of these smarter things.”
To coincide with its metering accreditation, intelliHUB has launched an application called Bill of the Future aimed to allow retailers and customers to harness the potential of smart metering.
The bill will be delivered via smart devices and present forecasts on current usage with data analytics and machine learning used to predict future consumption. Customers will be able to see the performance of their appliances, identify any appliance faults, identify patterns and make decisions to enable them to save on power bills.
“It’s one thing to collect all this data and visualise it but the most important thing is for an end consumer to be able to turn it into useful knowledge, control, choice an ultimately benefit,” Mr Clark said.
With products such as Tesla’s Powerwall home battery which powers the house from electricity generated from solar panels or from the grid when utility rates are low, the market for innovative home energy products is going to become undeniably more crowded.
“I think you’re already starting to see the major retailers starting to innovate and use this technology,” Mr Clark said. “I think the case is starting to become more accepted that smart technology has a big role to play.”
A visualisation of intelliHUB’s Bill of the Future which shows the benefits of knowledge-based smart metering.Source:Supplied