Last November, Australia’s biggest three energy companies were mandated to begin sharing their customer data, with consent, as part of the federal government’s Consumer Data Right, or CDR, scheme. On November 16, all energy retailers with 10,000 customers or more will be required to follow suit, opening up access to granular data on how Australians use energy.
While the scheme is primarily about improving industry transparency, founder and CEO of data access company Biza, Stuart Low, is adamant the data has much broader potential.
What the CDR is
First introduced in the banking sector in 2020 as a response to Australia’s Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, the federal government’s Consumer Data Right (CDR) scheme is now extending to energy retailing companies, before it expands to the telecommunications industry.
Basically, the scheme mandates data holders, in this case energy retailers, to share data in a standardised format with consumer consent.
“For a long time, corporations… have basically treated data as their asset to own and leverage and monetise, and the reality is that it’s not theirs, it’s the individuals,” Low tells pv magazine Australia.
Before founding Biza.io, Low was the government’s engineering lead for the CDR scheme, helping to write the standards and, as he describes it, do “the sausage making.” For him, the scheme is about ensuring consumer data can be used to benefit actual consumers, rather than just benefiting the companies which hold it.
What kinds of energy data is becoming available
Under the scheme, detailed data from customer’s bills, smart meters, as well as information about solar and battery systems can be accessed.
Specifically, meter information down to the fidelity supplied by the meter itself is available, Low says. “So if it’s five minutes or one minute, you can get raw data basically.”
For distributed energy resources (DER) information, Low says participants will be able to see if customers have solar or a battery, and what inverter they are using. Data on utilisation down to five minute granularity and site details also comes under the umbrella.
In terms of who can access this data, there are various mechanisms in place but it is essentially a matter of either becoming accredited in the CDR scheme or simply using an accredited third party.
What CDR data could be used for
The most obvious use case is for companies to use the data to implore customers to switch energy providers or install solar. To date, Low has found the data’s use – at least in the banking sector – fairly uninspiring. “To be honest, there’s been quite unimaginative use cases,” he says.
For him, the potential is far broader. “There opportunity here to essentially make better infrastructure investment decisions.”
“A company can pull all these data points in and essentially come up with either A) a very accurate assessment of what they can do locally. But the bigger story here is imagine if you could do that for a thousand households in a radius and say, ‘ok, we have a thousand households, we know this is the consumption, we’ve literally charted to a five minute basis what the expected consumption is.” So now we can look at deploying a localised battery, perhaps a solar farm, perhaps solar panels on roofs. We could make that large capital investment.”
Data like this, he says, could also be used by governments or groups to help make decisions around potential locations for communities batteries – especially with the government set to begin rolling out its subsidy scheme.
Choosing locations for things like community batteries, Low says, is a “very complex analytical problem, but also there is a straight up privacy problem as well.” Without the CDR, market operators are only entitled to offer up a rough picture. But if consumers chose to take part in the CDR scheme, it allows much higher fidelity assessments. It allows insights into how whole communities are using energy, and could track exactly when solar systems reach a critical mass in areas.
Another more ambitious scenario would be for banks to access this energy data and use it to do things like offer refinancing options where they bundle in electricity. That is, they could pay for solar systems and benefit from the certificates awarded across many mortgages, Low says. “Until now that was almost impossible.”
Low’s suggestions are just possible starting points and by no means the data’s limits. “This is what the CDR could do, if someone goes out and does it,” he says.
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