ARENA funds Wattwatchers toward more consumer empowerment

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Back in August pv magazine Australia spoke with Wattwatchers CEO Gavin Dietz, a man passionate and excited about the benefits of efficiency and renewables in the great energy transition. Of course, first and foremost, Dietz was excited about how Wattwatchers brings those two benefits together to empower each other and the consumer. Evidently, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) agrees, with the announcement today that Wattwatchers is set for a $2.7 million funding boost. 

The funding will provide discounted Wattwatchers smart energy devices to customers across Australia. Approximately 5,000 households and businesses, and 250 schools will be invited to have these discounted Wattwatchers devices installed. The lucky participants will then benefit from real-time data monitoring made digestible in a visually focused app called My Energy Marketplace (MEM), and shared through a cloud platform to provide even more financial benefits to consumers through potential energy management schemes like virtual power plants (VPPs) or demand response. 

Of course, the sharing of data is optional, through ARENA and Wattwatchers are hoping the benefits are so apparent as to ensure enough consumers will participate and, in turn, develop a sufficient scale to test the business interest of the results. As Dietz told pv magazine Australia about the future of Wattwatchers, the company aims to show tangible results in the form of a payday so that they need no longer rely on the aid of investors and grantmakers, but for the company to become profitable in itself. 

Gavin Dietz joined Wattwatchers as Managing Director in 2016. Previously he was Chief Information Officer for smart meter maker Landis + Gyr.

Image: Wattwatchers

The three year, and ultimately $8 million project, will also allow third parties like the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and Distribution Network Service Providers (DNSPs) to pay for access to collected consumer data for a better understanding of their networks in real-time, particularly an understanding of the behaviour and impact of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs). 

MEM is described by Wattwatchers as being “‘like an app store for energy’ which aims to harness the power of data to empower electricity consumers in the technology enabled ‘New Energy’ era.”

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the Wattwatchers project aligned with ARENA’s focus on integrating renewables into the electricity system. “Whether it’s rooftop solar, battery storage, energy efficiency, controlling electricity loads and appliances remotely, or the uptake of electric vehicles, we need better data to effectively run the future grid consisting of more and more decentralised consumer energy assets,” said Miller. 

“The Wattwatchers project is designed to provide both the data and consumer participation needed to manage an increasingly decentralised electricity system,” continued Miller. “This also aligns strongly with other ARENA-funded initiatives for DER, demand response and new marketplaces.” 

ARENA’s support is vital to reaching the kind of fully-fledged commercial-scale demonstration Wattwatchers requires. Dietz spoke today about the empowerment provided to consumers by more and better data that will be provided by ARENA’s assistance. “They (consumers) can identify and take action on energy efficiency opportunities, both behavioural and appliance-driven, and use energy at times that suit them,” said Dietz. 

“Network businesses and market operators currently have poor visibility of the low-voltage grid,” noted Dietz, “which is connected to over 10 million Australian consumer sites, and face a mission critical challenge to both see and control DER as Australia moves to higher and higher penetration of renewable energy, especially small-scale solar.” 

There is no doubt Australia is in need of ways of understanding the effects of higher renewable penetration, especially that of small-scale solar. After all, AEMO chief Audrey Zibelman turned heads at the Smart Energy Council’s (SEC) National Smart Energy Summit in Sydney earlier this month when she prophesied that by the year 2040, at least 25% of Australia’s electricity will be produced by rooftop solar. 

Deployments for the MEM are set to commence in 2020.