How energy data as a service will enable net zero solutions in property, banking and other sectors

Image ex Canva to illustrate blog post on Wattwatchers energy data services

Getting high-quality, detailed data on how electricity is used inside Australian households is difficult and expensive to do. But it’s vital for research and commercial innovation to enable the clean energy transition, and to support the economy-wide quest for net zero emissions across our homes, enterprises, transport and other industry sectors. 

GRACE YOUNG: CHIEF INNOVATION OFFICER, WATTWATCHERS

With energy supply and prices now facing a rolling set of challenges—if not outright crises—in Australia and globally, fostering data-driven solutions is more vital than ever.

Until now, people needing scalable access to household-level energy data in Australia have struggled to find anything much at all; have been forced into complex and costly workarounds; or have had to rely on limited, increasingly out-of-date sources like the now decade-old Smart Grid Smart City dataset.

This dearth of comprehensive, accessible and up-to-date data is a genuine impediment to fast-tracking technology-enabled solutions for the ‘New Energy’ era, including for use-cases outside the energy sector per se, such as property, banking, insurance, agriculture, Industry 4.O, sustainability management, mobility, and more…

Over the past few years, Wattwatchers has been leading a project that provides a new marketplace model for energy data, in parallel with the market for electricity. We’re excited to now be able to offer powerful data services using data and tools emanating from this groundbreaking initiative.

Introducing MEM data services

My Energy Marketplace (MEM)* is a new ‘behind the utility meter’ energy dataset based on real-time and historical monitoring data from thousands of mainly residential electricity customer sites in Australia.

Most sites are located within the National Electricity Market (NEM), one of the largest interconnected energy systems in the world, which supports over 10 million household and business customers. 

Best of all, MEM participants have all pre-approved the sharing of three years of their energy data on an anonymised basis. They do this under customer-friendly terms and conditions (T&Cs) which highlight consumer data rights, including privacy and security, and which have been purpose-developed for the project with guidance from an external data advisory panel of diverse experts. 

Wattwatchers first conceived the foundational MEM concept—of making consumer energy data safely shareable with third parties, and easily portable between online services—in 2017. Subsequently the project won support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA*) at the end of 2019, expanding into a $9 million-plus national project with $2.7 million in grant funding.

Who is this for?

Over 2000 households are participating in the MEM already, and we’re on track to expand this base to 5000 sites by mid-2023. We’re already delivering or developing a range of data-based services to foundation customers, including:

  • Data businesses
  • Research institutions
  • Network and market operators
  • Government programs
  • Grant projects
  • App/software developers
  • Incubators and accelerators

As well as homes, the MEM dataset also includes a smaller number of small businesses, strata common property areas, and schools.

For the electricity system itself, the MEM provides a valuable new resource to increase visibility of the low voltage networks, where most customers are connected. With the continuing, rapid increase of distributed energy resources (DER) hitting the grid, data sourced from consumer-owned monitoring infrastructure is more critical than ever.

Use-case #1: UNSW-led energy data platform project

UNSW Sydney is developing an ‘Energy Data Platform’ on behalf of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (ACAP), which represents several leading Australian universities and the CSIRO. The objective is a fleet of multiple hundreds of sites, with access to anonymised data for researchers over multiple years. Households that want to participate have to consent to the project to meet university ethics approval requirements, and they need to complete an online survey to receive a package of rewards. » Read more about how Wattwatchers and the MEM are helping.

Behind the MEM

The highly-granular MEM dataset—offering both 5 minute and 30 second measurements as standard intervals—is gathered independently of the regulated electricity sector. The data is collected primarily by using multi-circuit, Class 1-accuracy Wattwatchers EnergyIoT devices with data delivery via the easy-to-use Wattwatchers API

Data sharing and portability are pre-enabled by our innovative, customer-friendly, plain English T&Cs, which participants accept when joining the service. These terms also contain provisions to make further ‘offers’ to MEM participants to share more data on an opt-in basis, including personally-identifying information, in exchange for financial or other rewards.

The MEM dataset captures the how, what, where and when of electricity usage and generation in the home or other site. From mains connections down to individual circuit-based loads such as hot water, air-conditioning, pool pumps and EV chargers, and where relevant solar generation, for example. Collected data points include real and reactive energy, voltage, current and power factor.

As well as being a multi-purpose dataset, the MEM is also an established fleet of monitored sites which can be used as a testbed for demonstrating and trialling new apps and other solutions with real customers.

Flexibility is built in, allowing MEM data service customers to draw data from already-installed sites, while Wattwatchers also provides cost-effective options to customise data, connect with participants, and to install new sites where required for client projects.

Use-case #2: Startup team Maven & Boyg

Maven and Boyg (M&B) is a new startup founded by data experts who are working at the intersection of strategy and culture, people and process, and data and analytics. The M&B team focuses on driving actionable strategies, new business models and sustainable outcomes to create business value. M&B are undertaking a simulation project using a sample dataset to test the potential of the MEM data to build hierarchies from device > site > consumer > geography, whilst exploring the predictive nature of such data at the site level when combined with external data such as weather data.

The M&B principals, Linda Byun and Gordon Wallace, explain:

‘We believe data can drive value across various participants in the energy market through a deeper understanding of one another. The value of a consumer, as a collective, can be turned to value to the energy distributors, helping to drive better decisions and solutions for energy transition, with both parties working together to create value and impact.

The aim of the simulation is to highlight the potential of the data in bringing parties closer together, to drive better discussions for energy transition. This is done by illustrating the power of information at various levels, with intent to show if the sample was larger to create proper consumer market segmentation, what kinds of behavioural and predictive insights could be generated.

Should there be enough devices installed to represent a proper sample (which is the next phase), decisions can be enabled for both consumers as well as businesses who participate in managing energy for consumers.’

Did you know?

Wattwatchers-made devices are the energy monitoring and data acquisition solution of choice for a growing number of projects and programs (e.g. research institutions, community groups, energy industry players, social housing providers, government agencies and others). 

In recent years, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has used Wattwatchers-made devices and their data extensively to investigate the impact of rooftop solar generation on grid stability and reliability.

Other projects and organisations using Wattwatchers monitoring for data include MyTown Microgrid in the town of Heyfield, Victoria; the Byron Local Microgrid in Byron Bay, New South Wales; the Sustainable Building Research Centre at the University of Wollongong; Fairwater Living Lab in western Sydney; and several property developer demonstration homes.

Use-case #3: Wattwatchers in-house data projects

As well as providing energy data as a service to an expanding range of third parties, Wattwatchers uses MEM data internally to further refine our data service offerings, broaden the software applications we provide, generate new insights for policy engagement, and to test and develop innovative solutions for smart energy and carbon management.

Examples include work on high resolution (hourly) carbon calculations, and an investigation into the accuracy of electricity bills being provided to customers with solar. Also see our recent post on how power price surges highlight the need to dig deeper into energy data.

Pricing and preferred access for innovators

Currently pricing for MEM data services is negotiated on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the wide variety of potential use cases, research and development needs, additional data requirements (e.g. metadata), and budgets.

Wattwatchers also offers preferred access opportunities for app developers and other innovators who are developing potential solutions, especially where solutions can be delivered to MEM participants via our own in-app marketplace, which is being developed as a new ‘app for apps and services’ that need granular energy data.

We know from long experience that gaining necessary access to consumer energy data can be a particular challenge for early-stage startups and other innovators, and we want to help. This is a particular personal ‘passion point’ for me individually: this was exactly the problem my co-founder and I faced in my pre-Wattwatchers life with a startup called Nexergy—a local energy trading application. Our business sadly didn’t make it, in large part to the challenges of accessing appropriate energy data for our use case. So I’m super-keen to see others succeed in our wake…

Data services available now

Wattwatchers is inviting MEM data customers for use cases including:

  • App and software-as-a-service (SaaS) R&D and related innovation across a range of tech sectors (e.g. climatetech, cleantech, energytech, fintech, proptech, agtech etc.)
  • Net zero and energy management for the built environment
  • Academic, industry and wider research for the energy transition
  • Government program development, management and verification
  • Community-based energy solution projects and initiatives
  • Grid and network visualisation, oversight and alerting

Whether you need access to a year or more of granular data from thousands of sites, or you need a small highly-targeted set of sites, the MEM can help.

A recap of MEM features

Whatever you are working on, the MEM can help with access to the consumer-sourced data you need. Whether that’s a new consumer-facing app for the EV owners of the future, or data-driven solutions for the digitalisation of energy networks, or integrating real-time energy data into Internet of Things (IoT) services—if you think it up, we’ve probably got the data that can help you realise your vision. 

Features include:

  • Highly-granular real-time and historical data (5 minute and 30 second measurements) from ‘behind the utility meter’ at over 2000 sites, expanding to 5000-plus over the next year (i.e. datasets include mains import/export, solar generation if applicable, and circuit-based loads such as aircon, hot water, pool pumps, EV charging etc.)
  • Pre-approval via plain-English Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) from participants to 
    • share three years of their anonymous and/or aggregated energy data, and 
    • receive offers to share personally-identifying data consistent with privacy laws and best practice
  • Delivery of data access via Wattwatchers’ widely-used, commercially open access REST API (Application Programming Interface), with options for ‘push API’ delivery and also ‘flat files’ such as CSV (the REST API is our preferred option)
  • Data package options ranging from large sets of non-personally identifying datasets (postcode-level location identification) to more-targeted and customised sets of ‘clean’ and ‘curated’ site data, for use with a full range of commercial services, and also for research and development purposes

Want to know more?

If you are interested in accessing MEM data services for commercial innovation and research, email sales@wattwatchers.com.au and ask for Wattwatchers Data Services. If you are a tech startup needing data to develop and verify your concept, email info@wattwatchers.com.au to initiate a conversation with us.

*ARENA ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The My Energy Marketplace project is receiving funding from ARENA as part of ARENA’s Advancing Renewables Program. The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of the Australian Government, and the Australian Government does not accept responsibility for any information or advice contained herein.