Time for utilities to take leadership in the data access world.
The energy landscape is changing. In some jurisdictions, gas utilities are facing moratoria on new customer connections. Electricity companies are seeing initiatives to engage customers with behind the meter solutions. New dynamics in the market also run the gamut, from aggregators allowing customers direct participation in demand response, capacity, and ancillary services to solar and storage solution deployments helping customers avoid volumetric charges and optimizing for certain rates. Utilities are impacted by it all. While they are thinking through various issues related to products, services, and regulatory considerations, another issue is rapidly rearing its head: access to utility data.
Several significant transactions would seem to indicate that the market sees data access moving away from utility control. Most notably, Acadia’s purchase of Urjanet and Genability, and Utility API’s $10 million series A capital raise. This movement in the market would indicate that instead of working with utilities, companies are choosing to build infrastructure to work around utilities to access and offer data to consumers and industry stakeholders.
Simultaneously, several statewide initiatives are evidence of data access becoming a statewide function, rather than the purview of individual utilities. The highest profile of these is New York State’s Integrated Energy Data Repository (IEDR), led by NYSERDA, which aims to provide a statewide platform that will allow effective access to useful energy data and information from all of New York’s electric, gas, and steam utilities, centralized in one place. Maine and New Hampshire have similar initiatives underway. In New Jersey, the BPU mandated all IOU’s offer a web services portal to enable access to benchmarking data. While each utility is responsible for providing data access to customers, the rules have been created by the BPU, forcing utilities to follow instead of lead. ￼
Utilities can continue with current processes and procedures, allow these other initiatives to flourish, and react when necessary. Or, utilities can take a leadership position around data dissemination. Utilities and their regulators have rightly taken customer data privacy as a highest order priority, which must continue. However, we have seen many examples, such as Calico’s Utilibridge™ implementation, Energy Usage Data System with ComEd, that are proven ways to provide all building stakeholders with data access whilst maintaining customer privacy.
Whole building data sets are invaluable for a myriad of use cases including building benchmarking, compliance with Building Energy Performance Standards (BEPS), support for analysis of energy efficiency potential, evaluating specific measures, and measurement / verification. Building level data may be the most obvious use case. However, it is not the only one.
- Aggregated data at the municipal level to support Community Choice or Community Solar.
- Information on the utility’s capabilities and/or limitations in supporting beneficial electrification in various parts of the service territory.
- Information that could allow 3rd party charging companies to identify ideal locations.
Some utilities may say that they “provide this data to certain people on request.” However, being proactive and making that data available to all parties in a useful form would present utilities as stakeholders who are responding to market realities and enabling the potential for scaled solutions. The potential impacts are nothing to ignore either. The EPA found that buildings benchmarked on a consistent basis achieved an average annual energy savings of 2.4 percent, while a report on the DC Benchmarking initiative indicates an annual energy savings of public buildings at 5%. It’s clear that market forces react when they have data to act upon.
There is abundant potential for building owners, utilities, and stakeholders of all kinds if utilities take an initiative to provide accessible data to their customers and the communities they serve. If they do not take the lead on comprehensive data access, then it’s increasingly clear that external, third parties will. If this happens, the utilities may not be able to control the protocols, the rules, or the narrative.
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