Most utilities are currently sitting on an abundance of data. A recent Bain & Company report stated that although utilities have access to a wealth of data from smart meters and other sensors, most utilities either don’t know where to start with analytics or believe that systems for proper analytics are years away.
However, that is not exactly the case. The social media, banking, and telecom businesses have used data science for some time to drive more engaging online experiences. Today, Aclara applies the same principles used in other industries to drive engagement on our platform for our utility partners. For example, our home energy reports (HERs) create engaging content that is detailed and customer-specific utilizing information from meter data without additional customer input.
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These next-generation HERs not only use data to provide more value to customers but target the customers who can benefit the most from utility programs designed to reduce usage and costs. The end result is a greater impact, lower cost, and superior customer satisfaction.
One recent example is a test and learn program conducted by a large, Southern California-based gas utility. The program compared the performance of Aclara’s HER program, a competitive third-party solution from Oracle Utilities’ Opower Energy Efficiency, and an HER developed in-house by the utility.
The program, evaluated by Nexant, was designed to determine how best to drive behavior change to reach the utility’s gas conservation goal of 1%. The Aclara HER delivered solid energy savings in the trial.
Traditional HERs, pioneered by services like those provided through Opower, have successfully used tools like social benchmarking and consumption history for many years.
Aclara saw an opportunity to take things a step further by adding the secret sauce of disaggregation to give consumers more detail about how they use energy.
What is the secret sauce?
Aclara brought its strategically Ecotagious into the project to disaggregate, or break down, smart meter data into appliance-level insights as a way to infuse more value into the traditional home energy report.
Combining AMI data with other data sources, Aclara and Ecotagious were able to offer relevant benchmarks, breakdowns of energy usage in each home by major appliances, and personalized tips and recommendations based on the appliance loads that each home was using.
Greater energy savings and higher customer satisfaction
For example, specific households were compared to similar 2,000-3,000 square-foot single-family homes in Santa Barbara that were also using natural gas in the winter. Homeowners were shown how much of their total natural gas bills were related to their furnaces and were provided tips and recommendations on how to save on heating in the winter time.
This high degree of relevance and personalization, along with one clear appliance load to focus on throughout the report, is exactly what customers are now looking for from their utilities. As such, we are seeing these next-generation reports drive greater energy savings as well as higher customer satisfaction. According to Ecotagious, every program run to date using its model has led to significant, third-party evaluated energy savings for both electricity and natural gas.
When the advanced metering data is also used at the beginning of the process to select the customers with the highest conservation potential, the impact of disaggregation jumps dramatically. Aclara and Ecotagious facilitated an additional program for the same Californian gas utility where customers were selected based on an analysis of how their homes responded to changes in weather. This program delivered more than twice the energy savings of all other programs tested.
Moving beyond traditional HER
HERs are continuing to evolve to meet increasing customer needs. The programs described above demonstrate that using disaggregated meter data to select the right customers while at the same time providing more robust, personalized insights amplifies the impact of the traditional HER.
In an upcoming blog, we will go into more detail about how we design and implement our HER programs and what kind of results you can expect with your customers.