Data Catalyst - EnergyOntario is a hotbed for energy innovation and it’s about to get hotter. The province has rolled out smart meters for 4.7 million commercial and residential customers. A Meter Data Management and Repository (MDM/R) overseen by the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) has also been pioneered, and smart meters are now feeding data back to the MDM/R on a daily basis in hourly segments.

Steps are currently underway to make this smart meter data available to Ontario consumers in a common format through the Green Button standard. The standard ensures a consistent common data format, making it easier for software and app developers to design and build solutions without having to customize them to each utility.

Data enables innovators to help energy consumers take control of their energy use and focus on one solution rather than a set of customized solutions. It also has multiple practical applications for consumer use, utilities use, and energy system suppliers and planners based on audits, analysis and automation.

Adoption of the Green Button standard in Ontario is an effort on behalf of the Ministry of Energy, Energy Board, MaRS Data Catalyst, Power Authority, IESO, seven utilities/local distribution companies and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to ensure that smart meter data is released in a common format without compromising the security of utility customers.

Market opportunities from consumer access

Last year, MaRS Market Intelligence released a market insights paper that delved into the market opportunities that come from enabling consumers to access their energy data to bridge the consumer divide. According to Christopher Irwin, United States Department of Energy lead for the US Federal Green Button Team, unlocking energy data opens up the following opportunities:

  • Insight: Entrepreneur-created web portals that can analyze energy usage and provide actionable tips
  • Heating and cooling: Customized heating and cooling activities for savings and comfort
  • Education: Community and student energy efficiency competitions
  • Retrofits: Improved decision-support tools to facilitate energy efficiency retrofits
  • Verification: Measurement of energy efficiency investments
  • Real estate: Provision of energy costs for tenants and/or new home purchasers
  • Solar: Optimized size and cost-effectiveness of rooftop solar panels

With the standard rolled out across 2.6 million households and small businesses in Ontario, an application developer can use a customer’s energy usage information through the Green Button standard to then provide baseline information, insights, tips and controls, encompassing the categories of audit, analytics and automation.

Energy data in the consumer sector

Green Button standard adoption has already begun in the United States, where it was first pioneered. There are many different types of energy data, however, that go beyond smart meter data. Greentech Media (GTM) provides a summary of the various types of consumer energy data via their The Soft Grid 2013-2020: Big Data & Utility Analytics for Smart Grid report.

  • Building envelope: Age, attic, basement, garage, aspect ratio, building orientation, internal mass, roof construction, roof reflectance
  • HVAC: Age, type, efficiency, zoning factor, cooling schedule, setback schedule
  • Pool/hot tub: Size, heated, heating fuel, solar cover
  • Lighting: Types, quantity, hours of operation, home/work schedules
  • Occupancy: Number of occupants, ages, home/work schedules
  • Kitchen: Appliances, electric/gas, load, efficiency, appliance schedules
  • Laundry: Washer, dryer (electric/gas), loads, efficiency, water consumption
  • Electronics: Number and type (TVs, cable boxes, DVD players, audio equipment, personal computers/laptops, tablets, cellphones, cable modems, gaming consoles, printers), use schedules
  • Water heater and use: Age, fuel type, rated input (BTU/hour), water temperature, delivery temperature, energy factor efficiency, recovery efficiency, use hours/gallons
  • Solar electric: Array tilt, azimuth, efficiency, temperature coefficient, inverter load curve, nominal power

We’re only just beginning to imagine the possibilities.

Energy data in the commercial sector

For the commercial sector, energy data enables greater participation in demand response programs in new ways. Energy efficiency retrofits benefit from greater energy data use—first in the planning phase, to make a business case or open up new retrofit opportunities using energy management software, but also through ensuring a greater business case and greater energy savings by continuing to improve and adjust systems.

The other suite of data is that which is coming in from the utility hardware—both the old and the new. Smarter equipment is producing a multitude of data points as utilities automate and add controls and sensors. There are huge opportunities in enabling utilities to visualize and predict via software and data points—not only from the smart meters, but from within the grid. GTM predicts that the utility analytics market will grow cumulatively to US$20 billion by 2020. This includes grid analytics ($8.7 billion), consumer analytics ($7.1 billion) and enterprise analytics ($4.2 billion). Check out the market update here (after filling out your name, company and email information).

Utilities can use data for the following analytics:

  • Transformer analytics
  • Substation related analytics
  • Fault detection and outage analytics
  • Load prediction analytics
  • Power quality/power factor analytics
  • Network analytics
  • Weather and renewables analytics
  • Demand response/virtual power plant analytics
  • Theft analysis
  • Predictive asset management

Up until now we have set up the initial infrastructure to make the smart grid happen, with MDM/R and smart meters. The next step currently under process in Ontario is making the data from these smart meters available and in a common format for solution providers and consumers. From there, energy efficiency and smart grid opportunities can be tapped.