The Data Hub -Unlimited Possibilities

The level of competition in the energy industry is escalating and easy access to accurate data will be the biggest market differentiator.
Published: Fri 15 Apr 2016

Consumers expect easy and efficient access to the best tariffs on the market and utilities and energy companies need data to accurately forecast consumer energy demand and cost. In recognition of this increased need for more complex yet highly available data, a number of countries are supporting the rollout of Data Hubs so that market opportunities are not lost. [Big Data-Creating Big Business Value].

We spoke to Matthew Ross, US Sales Director at Energyworx who gave us more insight into the growing need for data hubs. He also highlighted two themes, the first one of which is Customer Data Access & Sharing, and the second, Vendor Access for Grid Services (i.e. Demand Response).

Embrace data opportunities with specialists

According to Mr Ross, utilities need to shift from a commodity-driven business model to more of a data-driven service model because utilities can no longer rely on the idea of only supplying the cheapest electrons possible. Utilities must now think of new ways to engage their customers by offering valuable services that will create new revenue streams for the utility and cut costs like deferring peak power, for example.

“There is too much complexity on the grid (mainly due to new energy resources, EV’s, energy efficiency products etc.) for utilities to excel in all areas. Utilities should rather work with vendors to relieve this burden and instead create a revenue stream - even if they are sharing part of the revenue from the new opportunity. Utilities should be proactive and partner with innovative market entrants so that they can retain their customers and find new business models.”

He suggests that utilities focus on their core business, that is, serving their customers with reliable services whether it’s energy or other value-creating services and then look to the market for specialised services around data, demand response and energy efficiency.

“Don’t necessarily compete with these successful new companies but rather partner with them or find a way to be a part of that business. It is better for utilities to outsource some services to third parties and work with them so that the utility stays involved with its customers and a part of these new business models.”

He adds that utilities should work alongside data service specialists so they can achieve a secure, robust and agile system which will facilitate market activity. [Combined Solutions Are Giving Utilities a Competitive Edge.]

Many utilities are still concerned about sharing data as there is still a great deal of uncertainty around the privacy and security of data. Regulation around data ownership is also still very much in flux. However, the fact remains that customers should have access to their own data so that they can manage their energy consumption better. If utilities do not effectively supply this data, other market players will identify news ways to get the data to customers without the utility being involved. Security and privacy should be maintained without hindering access to data.

Importance of a robust data hub

In today’s data-hungry world, businesses cannot afford to carry out slow and laborious manual data entries.  

A data hub built on a user-friendly application program interface (API) will enable utilities to obtain data instantly, ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction.  The use of open APIs will allow simple consumer and third party data access for greater interaction in the market. In addition, smart grid and meter data can be collected and stored in one central platform for easier access while maintaining a strict level of security; the data can be encrypted and safeguarded using such techniques as pseudonymisation and permission models. Through these solutions, utilities can easily compare rates and profiles to make customer specific offerings, as well as connect the data with third parties for energy efficiency and grid services. Additionally, customers and utilities can control who views the data and at what granularity (monthly vs. hourly).  

“Energyworx is an API-driven company. Everything we do with our product is controllable by an API which makes it easy to integrate with all the different databases and distributed energy sources and IoT devices that are going to be dispersed across the grid.”

He adds, “It is important to have scalable technology. When it comes to utility-made solutions, they have to consistently monitor storage and computing power available on their server stack. This can be risky and costly.”

Energyworx is simplifying data collection with its cloud based platform which is utility agnostic and is able to accept data from many different databases and devices. By crossing various temporal data sources, Energyworx aggregates and consolidates new insights and displays them in real time. Being able to calculate hundreds of billions of context enriched data points in minutes means that the advanced live algorithms are extremely powerful, explains Mr Ross. [Creating Value From Data Through Real Time Insights.] [Combined Cloud Based Solutions Give Utilities A Competitive Edge]

“It’s about using modern web-based technology to make data more accessible. With the data hub, we can attain the smart grid future that everyone is dreaming about.”   

Empowering the loyal customer

When utilities give their customers the tools to make better energy decisions, they are creating a loyal customer and reducing churn, explains Mr Ross. Added to this is the fact that smarter energy consumption decisions will have a positive impact on overall grid efficiency.

“The role of vendors is to make the smart grid a reality by empowering customers with greater access to data and new services that benefit themselves and the grid.”

Energyworx supports the exchange of data between the customer, utility, vendor and transmission system operator (TSO). A good example of this multiple exchange is during demand response. These exchanges must be accurate and efficient for it to work. Real time data exchange opens up additional opportunities for the market such as Automated Demand Response (ADR) and microgrids..

Future of data hubs

Mr Ross expects multiple countries to embrace data hubs.  These include utility-scale data hubs as well as those on a national scale like in Europe. These data hubs can also connect with nearby markets to facilitate larger exchanges of energy.  

Data hubs, if created with API technology, would make the exchange of data much easier. However, for more data hubs to emerge, there is a need for greater adoption of these technologies.

“Utilities need to embrace new technology. They should consider the broader themes in the energy transition and become a part of this growing market.”

Energyworx and Ciber are working in many different utilities and countries to increase access to customer consumption data from smart meters and correlate with other smart grid data sources. Ciber and Energyworx use these data sources to develop standard customer profiles for forecasting, engagement, analytics and settlements. Download the data hub use case here.