To meet what it expects to be a leap in demand for intelligent systems, utilities smart meter company Landis+Gyr has launched intelliHUB, the only Australian-based metering technology company to attain full meter and meter data provider accreditation from the Australian Energy Market Operator.
If the next must-have item for energy conscious householders is a battery, the essential accessory will be a smart meter – whether they know it or not.
Fitting a battery and smart meter makes sense as feed-in tariffs end and the possibilities of a smarter grid come closer to being reality.
AGL’s vision of a “virtual power plant” for South Australia, announced in August, would be pretty meaningless without the free passage of data between solar PV systems, the 1,000 grid-connected batteries and the network so that delivery of electricity can be optimized.
“When you go from a meter that collects a single data point over three months to having half-hourly interval data about your consumption the possibilities are great,” says Landis+Gyr CEO Adrian Clark (pictured).
“The opportunities that smart technology in general really provides is a step change in the amount of data available to the industry and people who are looking to create new products and services.”
Clark says AEMO accreditation gives retailers confidence intelliHUB can manage a large scale rollout.
“Over the past five years Landis+Gyr has delivered over 2 million smart meters in Australia and New Zealand,” he says.
Managing energy use will become a mainstream pursuit once partnerships with retailers are established, he reckons. “It helps retailers ensure consumers have access to the latest technology so they can manage the amount and cost of electricity consumed from the grid,” he says. “It also means residents with solar panels can use smart meters to better utilise the power they generate.”
When the NSW solar bonus scheme ends on December 31, customers in the state will be able to switch to net metering – paying only for electricity that is used over and above that generated by rooftop PV solar systems. Smart meters are expected to become more popular as consumers look for solutions to help optimise power use and use of stored power when prices are high.
As renewable energy incentives end, Clark expects householders will ask themselves how to optimize consumption. “I have solar panels on my roof and I’m certainly focused on making sure I consume as much electricity when that solar is able to operate. You need smart metering, you need the data it can provide to really optimize how you consume electricity in conjunction with solar. That’s the single biggest opportunity I am seeing with the changes that are coming with the solar bonus coming to an end in NSW.”
Consumers can do their homework and choose a metering provider or a retailer can pick one on their behalf. In that case the retailer becomes “metering coordinator”, which carries a duty of care responsibility.
Landis+Gyr has also launched the grandly-named “bill of the future”, which not only gives you the bad news about how you have to pay but also includes a prediction of future consumption to greater than 90% accuracy, the company claims. Delivered to your phone, the bill can even identify appliances that aren’t working efficiently. “It’s simple machine learning using the metering data,” Clark says. “That’s a real opportunity for customers to get notifications when things are not performing the way they should.”
With the right technology in place, Clark expects the retailers will get busy dreaming up ways to optimize the way we consume electricity. If it sounds unusual that a retailer should supply its customers with tips on ways to spend less on its products and services, Clark thinks to do otherwise would be slow commercial suicide.
“You’re seeing a lot more retailers focusing on the customer experience, thinking about more innovative ways to engage, so they keep as many of the good customers and turn them into value-added customers … as opposed to just having a very negative defensive view about energy being the key commodity.”
There is always the possibility that consumers may one day start selling power to each other, but Clark says the bigger question is whether they’ll feel inspired to participate. There aren’t any barriers to trade between consumers, he says, but the “sweet spot” will probably be reached when storage and associated distributed generation are more common. “That’s when you can start to probably look at how you can offset those energy efficiencies and demand response benefits in conjunction with your localised generation and peaking issues on the network.”
Landis+Gyr has pedigree in the smart meter game from almost 90 years of monopoly electricity and gas meter supply in Australia. It also supplied the majority of meters into the Victorian smart meter rollout, Clark says. About three years ago the decision was made to expand in the Australian and Asia-Pacific smart meter markets. Most customers in Victoria have two-way communicating smart meters and forward-looking retailers were looking at metering as a service.
“You’re starting to see a lot of innovation, a lot of focus on those customer benefits and the key point there is that with that extra data and availability of that data there is now starting to be a lot of solutions and a lot of thought going into products that can maximize that,” he says.
“When I look at all the markets we operate in around the world Australia is one of the most exciting ones because there is such a high penetration of renewables at a domestic consumer level, and I think Australia will be a leader globally around the introduction of batteries.”
Will smart meters change the architecture of networks and grids? Clark expects the rollout of smart meters will enable optimization of low-voltage networks. “Low-voltage networks are starting to see power quality or voltage rise issues which are generated as a result of higher penetration of solar, so having data and being able to understand that low-voltage network means that you can plan and operate it and hopefully invest your capital as efficiently as possible to operate the low-voltage network.”
Victorian utilities are looking at ways metering data can be harnessed, he says. There are a lot of things that can be done with data analytics, such as improving outage reporting, outage management, power quality and general planning and operating of the network.
“A lot of grid operators have been planning and operating networks for a hundred years a certain way with a certain approach and at the extreme if you really use this data you are going to turn a lot of those processes on its head,” he says. “That’s a major leap forward but it’s one that requires careful introduction into any of these utility businesses.”
Do we need a network at all? Sure, there’s a lot of talk about going “off grid”, but Clark is a big proponent of a happy medium where an active grid augmented by actively managed distributed storage and energy “will get you the best green and economic outcome for consumers and broader community and society”.
Utilities are starting to change the way they look at the problem, he says. In the meantime, retailers need to work out how to design products around the deluge of data that’s about to hit them.