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Innovation: Southern Cross tips $2m into “IoT” start-up Wattwatchers

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Australian “internet of things” energy company Wattwatchers has raised $2 million towards its mission to put home and business electricity data back in the hands of consumers, allowing them to cut costs and better match solar and storage to their energy needs.

The NSW-based company said on Wednesday that it had received a $2 million investment from the Southern Cross Renewable Energy Venture Capital fund (REVC), a green investment vehicle purpose-built by Softbank China Capital and ARENA, and managed independently by private funds manager Southern Cross Venture Partners (SXVP).

auditor-m-series-devices-with-light-wfiafixobvjg copyWattwatchers – which is best known for its award-winning “clamp-on” Auditor device, which gives consumers web-based, real-time energy monitoring and control – says it will use the money to accelerate uptake of the ultra-compact, super-smart devices.

The company’s CEO, Gavin Dietz – who will be speaking at RenewEconomy’s Innovation & Start-ups in the Energy Sector conference in Sydney in May – said the investment would help propel the core Wattwatchers philosophy: that consumers should own their own energy data, control who has access to it, and benefit financially from anyone else using it.

“Gaining access to real-time data opens up an incredibly valuable journey for energy consumers, who face ever higher cost pressures,” Deitz said in comments on Wednesday.

“This journey starts with understanding how electricity is used in their home or business, which helps to save energy and to buy it better to cut bills. It can extend to participating in demand management schemes, right-sizing and optimising investments in … solar and storage, and trading energy with the grid and even neighbours,” he said.

“We will use the ($2 million) to expand Wattwatchers’ technology partnerships, drive down costs by dramatically increasing production volumes, boost customer support and underwrite more recruitment of skilled people to work on making energy data and control even more available.”

Beyond the consumer, Deitz notes the company’s technology has major benefits for energy markets and grid operators, offering real-time visibility down to circuit-level, and boosting their ability to manage electricity system crises, such as during the 2016/17 summer heat wave events.

Dietz – who came to Wattwatchers from Landis+Gyr, the world’s largest smart meter manufacturer – arrives at the company at a pivotal time, as energy markets transform and a new generation of consumers seeks to take back control of their energy consumption.

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“I strongly believe that if we give consumers access to real time data they will reduce their energy consumption significantly – either to be green or to save money,” Dietz told RenewEconomy in an interview last July.

“That’s what we expected to come out of the smart meter space, but it hasn’t broken out of the regulated space. We haven’t seen anyone truly empower the customer in that way,” he said.

“All the pieces of the puzzle exist these days, but no one is putting them together.

“By all means, leave the dumb meters there, use them for billing. But allow room for energy efficiency. There can be a second data capture point in the unregulated space. There doesn’t need to be only one source of data.”

Wattwatchers also has an ambitious global expansion agenda, its products now certified for use in NZ, the US and Canada, as well as Australia, and with the UK and EU pending.

A new round of demonstration projects with energy services companies and utilities are under way locally – as well as in NZ, the US, Malaysia, the Philippines and the UK – leveraging data to transform how consumers use and engage with electricity.

For Southern Cross Venture Partners, the investment in Wattwatchers is not its only foray into the “internet of things” energy market.

Its REVC last year invested $3 million in California-based start-up Geli, which has since set up a regional hub in Australia; and was one of three investors to pour $15 million into Sunverge Energy in 2014.

As well as backing Wattwatchers, SXVP Managing Director Mark Bonnar will join an expanded board of directors, which will mark a change for a company that is still majority-owned by its founders and management.

“Wattwatchers’ Auditor technology, advanced control analytics and cloud-hosted management interface is superior to anything we’ve seen globally,” Bonnar said on Wednesday.

“REVC is excited to partner with Wattwatchers, which is the necessary enabler of the Internet of Energy (IoE),” he said.

Wattwatchers CEO Gavin Dietz will be presenting at the Innovation & Start-ups in the Energy Sector conference, that is being co-presented by RenewEconomy and Informa in Sydney, May 8-9.  

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  • Gnällgubben

    And how much energy will it take to process all the petabytes of data that hundreds of billions of new sensors will produce? IoT is hardly environmentally friendly.

    • jamcl3

      Don’t worry, we don’t need pencil sharpeners anymore.

  • George Darroch

    I’d very much like someone to develop an affordable semi-smart switch system that makes depowering a household easier. There’s no reason my appliances should remain connected while I’m asleep or away from the house. But everything I see is either expensive (so won’t justify the payback for many years) or requires regular manual control (in which case I might as well go around the house and switch things on and off myself).

  • Chris Fraser

    I think it has a role in office or household efficiency. We can’t fix what we can’t measure. And it takes up no room on the DIN rail …