Nearly everyone uses electricity every day, certainly in the wealthy developed world.
Most of us take our electricity from a grid, with a very small minority operating off-grid through remote location or a strong sense of energy independence.
But how satisfied are we as consumers of electricity?
There are many reasons to think the likely answer is ‘not very satisfied at all’, especially now that electricity prices are rising rapidly and continuously in most if not all markets.
Are you being served?
What do you get as a consumer from your electricity retailer? What passes for Customer Relationship Management in the utility sector doesn’t get far past having addresses for sending bills.
For household consumers in Australia, it’s a three-monthly paper bill with fairly token ‘last bill’ and ‘same period last year’ comparisons.
You can’t see what you are using in real time, exactly when you might be able to do something about overuse, nor easily break down what different appliances are using.
Who can remember exactly what was going on three days ago, or even three weeks, much less three months.
Compare to the bowser experience
Imagine if service stations filled up your car with petrol, but the only time you saw what it was costing you was an aggregated bill every three months?
By contrast with electricity, as a consumer of fuel energy you see what a litre costs at the bowser every time you fill up. You know how long a tank full of fuel lasts, and the impact of driving less or having a smaller or more fuel-efficient vehicle, and sometimes the price goes down as well as up.
You have a real consumer relationship with fuel use but not with electricity.
So is that just the way it has to be, always has been, and always will be? Are energy retail utilities like big banks, offering essentially the same services with a mere semblance of meaningful competition?
Perhaps you expect more of the ‘smart grid’
If the ‘smart grid’ we increasingly hear about is to deliver for consumers, all that is now has to change soon. Electricity supply is still overwhelmingly a 19th and 20th century business model, with technology to match, and increasingly out of step with a 21stcentury, IT-enabled marketplace.
Here at Wattwatchers, watching from Australia, we find ourselves in furious agreement with Steve Collier of http://www.smartgridman.com/, who recently tweeted this sequence:
- Dear Santa, bring me Smart Grid revolution this year, not Smart Grid evolution.
- What would the US grid look like if we were starting from scratch instead of guarding the status quo?
- What if all the so-called Smart Meters were iPhones and androids instead of electronic versions of 100+ year-old technology?
Smarter, smaller and Wi-Fi
We’ve made our Wattwatchers Auditors® – they do many things smart meters do, and a lot more for the consumer – smaller, smarter, Wi-Fi, open platform, and ready to operate with smart phones, tablets, computers, pretty much any digital screen found in the home or office.
They’re installed on the customer side of the utility meter, and communicate energy use in real time independently of the energy retailer, and the utility billing meter – whether it’s new or old technology.
Wattwatchers uses a communications channel with virtually limitless data transmission and storage capacity – it’s called the Internet, backed by cloud management services. This opens up the potential for a lot of energy management services, including many we haven’t even thought of yet.
Is this part of the future for electricity? What can you create on the consumer side of the meter?