New Zealand network company Vector has joined forces with global internet giant Amazon Web Services to mine precious consumer data and use it to fast-track “profound” change in the energy sector and the shift to renewables and consumer energy technologies – starting in Australia and New Zealand.
The two companies on Tuesday announced a multi-year strategic alliance to develop what they call the New Energy Platform (NEP), with the initial goal of tailoring products and pricing plans for customers based on their energy consumption habits.
The NEP will gather data via more than 1.6 million Vector advanced meters across Australia and New Zealand, and then used AWS IoT Analytics to run sophisticated analytics on this data and provide valuable insights to help plan energy networks, drive smarter investment decisions, and increase reliability for consumers.
Beyond this goal, however, the sky is the limit – and the overarching aim is to use the AWS-operated NEP to supply networks and utilities with vital insights on how best to accelerate the uptake of the core game-changing technologies of distributed renewables, battery storage, and electric vehicles.
A major key to this will be developing more accurate and dynamic pricing models, to incentivise the use of energy generated locally by rooftop solar and microgrids, or stored in household batteries. For many, big data is the key to facilitate the transition to faster and smarter, as well as cleaner and cheaper technologies, and Amazon is looking to take prime position.
“Consumers are demanding cleaner, more reliable, and more affordable energy, and through our alliance with AWS we are taking critical steps to transform how the energy industry operates,” said Simon Mackenzie, Group CEO of Vector. “Our vision is for the NEP to transform the energy industry by using data to inform innovation and product development.”
Crucially, in Australia, the new platform will help Vector deliver advanced meter processing from 30 minute to 5 minute intervals by 2021, in line with the highly anticipated Five-Minute Settlement rule that aims to better align price signals with real-time usage and enable more efficient bidding, operational decisions, and investment, and encourage technologies such as battery storage and demand management.
“This strategic alliance will have a profound impact on the energy sector, as Vector and AWS work together to leverage advanced IoT, analytics, machine learning, and computer services to digitise millions of energy network assets at scale,” said Nick Walton, the AWS managing director for commercial sector in New Zealand.
“We are proud to work with Vector to support New Zealand’s economy by together creating 30 new highly-skilled jobs and deliver the vision of empowering energy and utility companies to leverage data collected by the NEP to deliver solutions that will help consumers tailor their energy consumption, reduce their carbon footprint, and save money.”
Mackenzie says his company’s vision for the NEP was to transform the energy industry by using data to inform innovation and product development.
“While there have been technology advances in the energy industry there has been very little close to the consumer, and that’s where we see our role.”
Mackenzie, who has been at the helm of Vector since 2008, has been keeping a close eye on the rapidly changing relationship between the utility and the customer for some years now.
“Our research shows that around 80% of people are actively managing costs, and looking at how they can be more efficient,” he told RenewEconomy in an interview in 2013.
“We are seeing different pricing structures, but that is probably not as important as seeing choices in technologies and solutions. So how I see it is that this we are at the point of going through a new world order.”
“Now, we are seeing people with solutions that are embedded in their own properties. They can manage their own demand, they can manage their energy. So how do we enable their choice? Because we can see an opportunity for a revenue stream – largely as a substitute for buying remote generation from the grid.”
Vector has also been keeping a close eye on the Australian market, and has taken strategic stakes in a number of key sectors including smart metering, smart energy solutions, and utility-scale battery projects; starting in 2017 with a contract to build the 5MW battery storage array in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
This week’s deal with AWS is not Vector’s first rodeo in the Internet-of-Things arena, either – the company in 2017 acquired the rights to Israeli developer mPrest’s software with the intention of helping it integrate customers’ systems into one platform.
“By collaborating with AWS, our vision is for the NEP to transform the energy industry by using data to inform innovation and product development,” Mackenzie said this week.
“The NEP can displace legacy systems creating a step change in processing power, flexibility, and accuracy addressing the rapidly changing requirements of metering and information systems.
“This industry-first in New Zealand is another step in our long-stated ambition to partner with like-minded organizations to benefit our energy and utility customers, and ultimately consumers,” Mackenzie said.