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Always on, constantly connected & more efficient than ever

June 22, 2018

Energy companies are at the dawn of a new era, one where our electricity is as connected as our smartphones. Much like upgrading our phones, the progression from AMR to AMI has unlocked the door to greater customer engagement and satisfaction, with a path to increased efficiency and new monetization opportunities. The rollout is advancing quickly – over half of the 130 million U.S. residential electricity customers have received a smart meter. Millions more are expected to come, contributing to the industry’s massive investments (as much as $110 billion over the next 10 years) in smart grid development.

The crux of AMI has been focused on operational benefits. Yet by providing utilities with unprecedented access to their customers, smart meters are expected to transform the energy sector in ways we never thought possible.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, however. Energy companies have poured resources into AMI, building a whole new network. Now they are on the precipice of something even greater. Finally, going beyond the meter to bridge real-time energy information to devices that offer unparalleled potential to propel efficiency and open new business opportunities. It’s an extension of the foundation that has already been built and the possibilities are absolutely incredible.

Energy companies have poured resources into AMI, building a whole new network. Now they are on the precipice of something even greater.

Always On, Constantly Connected

Between breaking news and stock market fluctuations to live traffic updates and instantaneous bank data, the world has been conditioned to live in the now. With smart meters deployed to more than 55% of U.S. households, energy is officially part of that same world – a world where everything is always on and constantly connected.

Meanwhile, consumers are eagerly searching for ways to reduce their energy bills – especially if they can help the environment in the process. They have come to appreciate the benefits of HER (Home Energy Reports), which has provided invaluable insights into how additional improvements can be made, leading to a 2% energy savings.

These reports have proved their value time and time again, but what if this relevant and personal information was also available in a mobile app? Studies supported by the Michigan EWR collaborative have found an additional 1.6% in energy efficiency would be realized. This comes as a result of the digitalization of HER, which offers consumers more immediate access to their historical energy data. With HER in the mobile age, it raises the total energy savings to 3.6%.

That’s huge, but what could be done to achieve an even greater level of efficiency?

Twice The Benefits

To go one step further, utilities can tap into their AMI connections to produce a brand-new real-time energy management experience for their customers. The benefits add up quick: with savings of 9%, real-time data more than doubles the efficiency of HER and mobile access alone. This technology can give users an unparalleled view of some of the biggest energy hogs – appliances and HVAC units – right down to the smallest device plugged into an outlet. Through real-time disaggregation, consumers are able to pinpoint how much energy devices and appliances are using every minute of the day – and take control of it right now.

The Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative recently found that 63% of consumers want actionable, real-time access to energy usage. This information would allow them to better control and manage their energy, whether it’s being used for a refrigerator, a washing machine or an ultra-high resolution 4K display.

That said, the electric utility industry cannot rest on its laurels. Going forward, the sector must continue to improve – but how? The answer involves a type of efficiency within technology you probably didn’t expect: autonomy.

The Autonomous Revolution

There has been a lot of hype surrounding self-driving vehicles, but did you know that autonomous technology could also improve energy efficiency?

Look at what smart thermostats have already accomplished. Smart thermostats have previously proven to create a 10% energy savings for residential customers by automatically adjusting the temperature. This savings was achieved by evaluating the weather, habits and other behaviors to balance comfort and consumption, meeting the needs of consumers without using too much energy.

That’s very promising, but what if consumers didn’t have to manage their energy at all? What if it was able to automatically achieve optimal efficiency without negatively impacting consumption?

Imagine an intelligent home that discovers and presents energy-saving opportunities, predicts outcomes and leads to more efficient operations. It’s not science fiction, it’s the future – and it has already started.

This is very important to consumers, who are excited by the advantages that smart devices provide. Nearly 1/3 of U.S. households have embraced smart home technology, and that number is expected to climb to 53% by 2022, showing just how attractive the market has become.

Two trend-setting utilities, DTE Energy and AEP Ohio, have already taken the next step. They have jumped ahead of the status quo by taking energy efficiency beyond only a real-time energy visualization solution, to autonomous HVAC and even the wider smart home.

Why are utilities doing this? It is not only the consumer push toward the smart home lifestyle that is causing them to venture down this path, but the changing energy efficiency landscape.

According to a 2017 study from Energy Institute at Haas, per capita, residential energy consumption has decreased by 6% over a five-year period, pressing utilities to find new ways to reach their energy efficiency goals. Smart homes (which connect everything from heating and cooling to lights, entertainment and appliances) offer a multitude of opportunities to increase savings and improve efficiency. Autonomous technology is right there in the driver’s seat, ready to help guide energy use throughout the home. Utilities can continue down this path to further monetize energy efficiency.

This is very significant, but it’s only part of the process. The quest for more efficient energy use will only continue as consumers integrate more deeply with smarter in-home technology. During this transitional period, utilities will have an opportunity to lead the charge and gain control of the energy efficient smart home – or risk losing it.

It all connects back to the 2% savings that started with HER, which has been expanded to 3.6% with mobile access. Now the savings have more than doubled to 9% by tapping AMI to deliver real-time energy visualization – but that’s not the end. With a 10% saving from smart thermostat, the connected home is primed to drive greater energy efficiency. The door is open for more innovation through autonomy and other technologies that will make it possible to continue improving energy efficiency and the utility business for many years to come.

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