Future Grid teams with WattWatchers to tap demand response energy market

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“Software meets hardware” partnership aims to tap booming behind-the-meter energy market – a key part of future NEM.

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Image: Future-grid.com.au

One of Australia’s leading home energy monitoring hardware companies, WattWatchers, has joined forces with up and coming internet-of-things outfit, Future Grid, to tap the huge potential demand response market that is tipped to be a key pillar of the national electricity market as it transitions to renewables.

The “software meets hardware” partnership, announced by the two companies on Thursday, will focus on providing energy retailers and distributors with accurate, reliable and real-time visibility of the 1.7 million (and counting) rooftop solar systems installed on Australian homes and businesses – and the batteries gradually being added to those – that operate behind utility billing meters.

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WattWatchers’ auditor devices

The two companies – using WattWatchers’ energy metering hardware and Future Grid’s software platform – would also provide insight into some of the major drains on the grid from the residential market, including air-conditioners, pool pumps, and electric vehicle chargers as more of these start to come online.

As Australian Energy Market Operator chief Audrey Zibelman has repeatedly stressed in her time in the role, harnessing these valuable, but currently invisible, resources – and a better understanding of patterns of consumer demand – will be key to making a renewables-dominated grid more reliable and efficient, and to driving down power costs.

Done well, it could even negate the need to build new large-scale power generation capacity, let alone to keep old coal plants open longer than they should be.

And industry is beginning to heed the call, with established energy players teaming up with IoT start-ups to get a handle on innovative new ways to buy and sell power, including peer-to-peer trading, the launch of a decentralised energy exchange, and the creation of virtual power plants made up of home solar and storage.

In its collaboration with Future Grid, Wattwatchers – which is also a partner in GreenSync’s recently launched deX venture – will use its energy trackers to monitor and control electrical circuits in real-time over the internet, operating independently of the utility-controlled meters used to bill customers and manage energy markets.

The company says that one of its metering devices can monitor up to six electrical circuits in a home or small business, including whole-of-site consumption and any imports from or exports to the main electricity grid.

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Future Grid box

Future Grid, a software company that specialises in transforming billions of data points into real-time decisions, will use the collected data to guide real-time machine learning to augment and automate decisions.

It could, for example, show grid operators the real-time status and impact of unlimited numbers of homes and their rooftop solar systems, storage batteries, air-conditioners, pool pumps and other circuit-level actors on the energy stage, the company says.

“The combination of Wattwatchers and Future Grid is a perfect match for energy retailers and distributors alike,” said Future Grid co-founder and managing director, Chris Law.

“Working with Wattwatchers was a natural software-meets-hardware partnership for his company as the ‘Internet of Energy’ started to move from an idea to an operating reality.

“As the sector transitions towards a decentralised model the ability to deliver high-quality, decision-ready data – at massive scale – will be a foundational component of the way electricity will be managed in this country,” Law said.

Wattwatchers, meanwhile, recognised the need for a partner to make sense of the enormous amounts of highly-granular energy data its devices have the potential to capture.

“Making sense of all that data at a grid-wide scale needs the kind of processing power that the Future Grid Platform has already developed and proven since they launched two years ago,” said WattWatchers CEO Gavin Dietz in comments on Thursday.

“We’re delighted to have this opportunity to work with the Future Grid team.”

The companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to guide their collaboration and have already begun work on proof-of-concept demonstrations of their combined approach to ‘Internet of Energy’ solutions, they said.

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8 Comments
  1. Roger Franklin 2 years ago

    You want to monitor every circuit in my house…… Oh Really!

    Well I think those with the gold make the rules and in the distributed energy market. Those that paid for the solar panels & batteries and have energy in their batteries – make the rules. So lets turn this around. My inverter knows how much energy I have stored and I am sure can be made to be smart enough to talk to your energy demand trading platform – and based on a set of rules, if the time is right, the price is right, then you can have a predetermined amount of power. If my neighbour decides to sell his kWh at 1 cent less than me, then that is his right and you get to use his first….A little like a share market where kWh’s are the trading unit.

    And then we need to have he discussion as to who is paying the “Electricity Connection fee”. Seems that if we are both benefiting – we need to sort this out too!

    Just my opinion!

    • Andy Saunders 2 years ago

      Roger, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Another way of putting it is that you managing your storage/PV etc optimally may not be the optimal way for a trading platform, which in turn may not be the optimal way to manage the overall grid. Some additional payments on top of the energy cost will be appropriate to let you cede control over your generation/storage.

      That said, there should be monitoring (and control) of many circuits in houses eventually – good way to demand manage.

      • Roger Franklin 2 years ago

        Andy, to me each home will eventually have some form of energy management appliance in it – which for those with solar and batteries is likely to be the hybrid inverter. There is no need for any additional hardware as this single appliance should be smart enough to know what is happening.

        If it is connected to the grid and configured to enable energy management and energy trading – then it is up to the house hold to determine who managers it. If a central system puts out a request to reduce power use by 20% for the next 90 minutes, then the inverter should be smart enough to be able to cycle off pool pumps, EV Chargers, AC Units and white good appliances or push their power consumption onto Battery and/or Solar only. This alone would have a dramatic impact on energy consumption.

        However….. this is not what the energy produces want. Given the majority of their profit comes from increased 30 minute spot prices – they actually want us to use power, so I would expect the various lobbyists to apply significant regulatory pressure applied to any appliances and technology that would actively manage peak power usage! Is this right – not really but they are only protecting their revenue stream!

        What I would add is that power coming from batteries is much more expensive than power coming directly from solar panels. Batteries have a cycle life so the more cycles the less life.

        I think the scope of home energy management needs to include EV’s – where the battery in an EV can be used within a home and potentially sent into the grid. So 10 Tesla 100kw equipped cars could contribute 1gw of power back into the grid or at least to power in-home appliances. Expect some further significant regulatory hurdles to be put in place here too!!

        Interesting conversation.

        • Andy Saunders 2 years ago

          For a home energy management controller to be completely useful/versatile (for instance, to be able to switch off the pool pump etc), then it needs to be able to switch (and probably also monitor) power on circuits or even appliances – no inverters can do that (I may be wrong…). Maybe eventually inverters will be built standard like that, but unlikely.

          And if in your scenario the central system puts out a request to reduce power by 20% – who is that central system? Your retailer? Your demand-response aggregator? Your distributor?
          AEMO? – there are reasons why it could be any or all of those. And in that case, they are in control of your power circuits, not you (I don’t think you’ll be there full time looking at your power controller deciding on the fate of the pool pump!).

          Personally I think whoever paid for the controller should be benefiting. If it was the householder, then the “central system” shouldn’t be sending out power orders, it should be a price signal instead, and the controller (based on how you’ve set it up) should make sensible decisions on your behalf (say, it’s a windy day and so leaves will be getting in the pool so run the pump, however it’s the middle of a working day so turn off the AC unless it’s 20 minutes before normal get-home time, unless the payment for the curtailment will be large in which case send a message to your smartphone saying the house will be warm when you get home but you’ve made $10 instead – something along those lines).

          Yes, in a perhaps not-too-distant future we’ll typically have many power sinks and maybe 4 power sources (solar panels, home battery, EV battery, grid) of varying (and time-varying) costs, and the optimisation of all that is (a) not simple, (b) prone to exploitation (c) very valuable if we get it right.

          Yes, interesting topic…

          • Roger Franklin 2 years ago

            Andy, nice response. Price in the end will be a driver – to both consume and supply power. Most hybrid inverters can control 2-4 circuits, where they can turn on and off circuits. This is quite basic as I expect in the future they will be able to do this using some form of “Connected Appliance” technology where individual appliances could be managed.

            Nice conversation. Look forward to a Q&A session on this topic!

            Cheers

    • Bill Gresham 2 years ago

      Spunds like a business opportunity here. I hack the system and sell info on who isn’t home to criminal gangs.

  2. David Pethick 2 years ago

    Hi @disqus_ow9vAATiym:disqus and @disqus_DVt2Tloeqz:disqus – thanks for your comments and the discussion. There are a few points I’d like to add, to clarify what we do and how we’re helping energy consumers to save money.

    1) Wattwatchers is an Australian company that makes hardware for the real-time monitoring and control of electricity circuits.

    2) We work with software partners (such as Future Grid, another Australian company profiled in the article above) to turn that hardware capability into a service that is valued by a participant in the energy markets.

    3) We believe that energy consumers will continue to shift from being “passive consumers” to “active participants” in the energy markets. We’re at about 1.7m solar installations to date – people didn’t choose to install solar because it is a beautiful addition to their home, they did it to take back control of their energy source and costs. We think that’s a global trend.

    4) Rolling out new hardware can be expensive. To reduce the cost, we work with partners that include retailers, distributors, solar and battery installers and others to share the costs and benefits of building the smart grid. One great example has been installing our hardware to enable Solar Analytics and AGL to help people optimise the use of their new solar system.

    5) Some of the functionality you described (e.g. smart switching) is enabled by our technology. We see the very high power prices that occur for a few hours a year as an opportunity for all participants to work together. Companies like GreenSync are working to build a trading platform to make this seamless for all market participants.

    In short – we’re really excited (and a little bit proud) to be an Australian company working in the energy space. We’re focussed on helping people to take control of their energy costs. We’re not going to build the smart grid overnight, but we think we’re moving in the right direction.

    If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me – email david at wattwatchers.com.au

    Cheers.

    Dave P.

    • Roger Franklin 2 years ago

      David – thanks for your reply and I think I can speak for a great many people – we are keen to support and proud to hear of innovative Australian Companies such as yourselves – Big Time!! Smart and Intelligent power grids are something that is coming and to have Australian companies leading the way is great. As agreed – some of the functionality can or could be built into existing inverters – particularly hybrid inverters, however perhaps not to the level you are looking for.

      Having invested in batteries, I and many others would be keen on an energy trading platform where we could essentially sell stored solar generated energy back to a provider when the time and price was right.

      Anyway – Good luck with transforming the grid. Hope you are managing to work with the ACT Govt who appears to be a keen supporter of distributed energy and storage, even of some of the other temporary residents are not!

      We all look forward to hearing and reading of your success.

      Cheers

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