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In-Home Displays for Energy Management

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on May 31st, 2011

From “Origin of an energy revolution” by Giles Parkinson:

The roll-out of in-house display systems for energy use promises to revolutionise the way the consumers understand and consume energy.  Origin, the largest retailer in the country, has kicked it off by announcing the largest pilot scheme of in-home displays in Australia – one that will involve 5,000 households over the next six months. But the rollout has far greater implications than consumer experience: it also promises to revolutionise the way that energy utilities conduct their business.

A report released last year by Ernst & Young entitled Seeing Energy Differently described the challenge facing energy utilities in dealing with the providers of new “smart technology” and responding to the demands of improved efficiency. Basically it came down to two options: either the utilities form partnerships with third parties to help consumers manage their energy and evolve the model into a new, sophisticated form of energy service; or they stonewall and come under competitive attack all along the value chain.

Origin has chosen as its partner the Colorado-based Tendril, which provides an in-home display that allows customers “unprecedented visibility” into energy usage, personalised estimates of monthly electricity bills and the ability to control household consumption. It allows communications over the web, mobile phone and home area networks, and can link with smart appliances and electric vehicles. And, of course, the energy company can see this information too.

Exactly how that business model will evolve is not yet clear because there are so many different factors that can still be brought to bear. But for Australian energy consumers, in-house displays – which look something like the dashboard displays in your car – are not far away. After the six-month pilot, Origin intends to then roll out the displays to all its 4.6 million customers – although the extent to which this can happen will depend on the rollout of the underlying infrastructure, which in this case is smart meters.

Craig [Phil Craig, the head of retail at Origin Energy] says that by the end of the decade, consumers can expect to have smart appliances in their home that can respond to a pricing signal and turn themselves off. There will be charge points in the garage where the plug-in electric vehicle can choose the best time to charge itself, or even send electrons back into the grid. And, says Davis [sic], there could be much larger solar systems on our homes.

“It will be a whole different model. Energy will be a more engaging product, people will be more interested and more actively thinking about it. We have got to try and stay ahead of the trends, adapt and try to understand what the new business model looks like.”

And the cost? The rollout of smart meters has gotten bad press, because so far it has involved higher electricity bills with little ability to modify behaviour.

Craig says the in-home displays should change those dynamics. But the cost that people will be paying in years to come will be governed as much by generation and network costs, as it will by in home displays. And other factors will also come into play, such as solar, which will be more economically viable and could lead to larger systems. “It depends how people react. But we will be putting power into the hands of consumers, so if they want to do something about it, they can change the nature of their consumption.”

Read the full article by Giles Parkinson on Climate Spectator.

A quick search seems to indicate that the In-Home Displays (IHD) are being offered to households in the Australian Government’s Solar Cities program – below are a couple of links for more information. KA