Sydney-based real-time energy data management company Wattwatchers has appointed a 10-year veteran of the world’s biggest smart meter company as its new managing director, as the company looks to scale-up both in Australia and internationally.
Gavin Dietz was officially appointed to the position this week, after long history in energy technology that began in 2003 at private equity team, Bayard Capital. Based in Sydney, Bayard bought 14 metering technology companies around the world over several years to form the Switzerland-based multinational, Landis + Gyr, which then sold to Japanese tech giant Toshiba in 2011 for $US2.3 billion.
Dietz joins Wattwatchers at a critical time, both for the company and for the nascent Australian market for the “internet of things,” which many believe will be key to the transition to an energy market where consumers are engaged and want to make the most of opportunities to save money through energy efficiency, rooftop solar and battery storage.
“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 on Thursday.
“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.”
Dietz says that it was as a frustrated consumer that he got involved with Wattwatchers in the first place.
“I got involved a couple of years ago just because I wanted to buy one,” referring to the company’s energy auditor devices (below). I wanted to make my house as energy efficient as possible, but I’d always got stuck at the smart meter.
“I strongly believe that if people were given access to information – their own data – their desire to spend as little as possible on electricity, for whatever reasons, would take over. A lot of people have never been empowered and they just don’t know.”
Before Dietz was formally appointed to his new role, he led the Wattwatchers team in an advisory role for its appearance at the 7th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM7) in San Francisco in June – a prestigious event hosted by the US government.
According to Chris Bean – Wattwatchers co-founder and CEO of its parent company the Energy Saving Networks Group (ESNG) – the event took the company and its Australian solar partner, Solar Analytics, into the heart of Silicon Valley and California’s “clean-energy-meets-digital-technology” revolution.
It is the company’s first foray into the US market, where it is working on regulatory approvals.
“Gavin was a pioneer about a decade ago in combining smart metering with consumer-facing in-home displays in Australia and internationally, in the early days of the smart energy household concept,” Bean said in a statement on Wednesday.
“By joining us he has shown extraordinary confidence in Wattwatchers’ emerging enterprise and homegrown Australian technology, coming on board at a critical time in our development from start-up to commercial scale-up in the new IoT era.”
Dietz says that as well as continuing to work with partner Solar Analytics, Wattwatchers aims to become “a little bit more of a contemporary digital company” and to branch into the retail space, working with retailers on how they can do things differently, and work with consumers, finding different ways to engage with them and inspire loyalty rather than offering “ridiculously high” retention discounts and flat “all you can eat” fees.
“Rather than offering customers a 30 per cent discount for 12 months, give them the tools, through Wattwatchers, to cut their energy use in a way that will offer the consumer an even better discount on their bill, and that won’t detract from the retailer’s bottom line.”
“It encourages consumer energy saving and loyalty. There’s got to be better ways than straight discounting.”
Elsewhere, Wattwatchers will also be targeting the market of solar consumers who, in a number of states, will soon come off the premium feed-in tariff and be faced with the problem of what to do with the excess solar their systems generate.
“The solar one is really interesting, as we reach the end of premium FiTs,” Dietz said. “Selling back to grid doesn’t make sense.
“If you can provide (consumers) with a suite of tools to stay within their solar curve, people will take that and use it.”
Which brings us to battery storage. Like many others in the industry, Dietz doesn’t believe many households will use battery storage to go completely off grid, but will combine it will other technologies, including the internet of things, to take more control of their energy use.
“I love that term ‘one step off the grid’,” he said. “I think we can get a whole lot of people one step off the grid.
“(Battery storage) is only going to get people one step off the grid, utilising it with solar.
“People really need to understand how solar works, and they need to size the battery to maximise solar use – that needs technology and data, which we do.”
Dietz also questions the industry view – mostly held by incumbents like AGL Energy – that customers don’t want to know about their energy usage, and don’t care about efficiency, but just want a guarantee the lights will stay on and that they won’t be blindsided by a massive bill.
“I can’t imagine my kids receiving an electricity bill like we do today. I want to get us to the point where we use technology to say, ‘I want to spend $4 a day on electricity, tell me when I’m at $3.50’.
“If you don’t have data, you can’t make a good decision, you can’t make any decision really.”