Jemena hooks consumers with smart meter data

 
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Real-time data?

Users of Jemena's portal that are unhappy with the up-to 24 hour delay in seeing smart meter data can tune into the distributor's network management system from the portal.

"[It's] the tool that does the fetching and collecting of the raw data from the meters, so when you use that button [in the portal] you can get data that might be from the last four-hour poll," Macfarlane said.

"It's about trying to make more recent data available to the consumer."

Later this year, electricity consumers will also be able to buy in-home displays that are capable of polling the smart meters themselves, surfacing the data in real-time to the householder.

"Then you can actually walk around your house turning lights, fridges and TVs on and off, and get a feel for what those devices are actually consuming or costing," Macfarlane said.

The Victorian Government is subsidising purchases of the displays through its Energy Saver Incentive scheme.

Users of Jemena's portal will be able to "bind" the displays to their smart meters using self-service features that have already been launched.

The displays and meters use the ZigBee Smart Energy networking protocol.

Consumer experience

Melbourne-based systems engineer Richard Keech is on the hunt for a suitable in-home display.

"It has the benefit of actually getting the real information, not just an indirect estimate of information that the meter is recording," he said.

By his own admission, Keech is "not your typical consumer". He's an "energy geek" and consultant that has been using Jemena's portal for about two months.

"I'm deliberately trying to keep my energy use as low as possible," he said.

Keech uses only electricity ("I got rid of gas entirely"), drives a Blade Electron vehicle that he recharges in off-peak periods overnight, and has solar panels which exports excess energy out to the grid.

He said the Jemena portal could be used to measure the impact of new appliances or lighting changes at home.

"When [you] make a change, you've got the opportunity to see if and how that changes your actual energy use from day to day rather than have to wait until your next bill and infer it [from one] big lump [of usage]," he said.

It also allows him to identify anomalies in power usage.

"I was at work the other day in the city and showing someone at work the portal, and I was able to infer from what I saw that I'd accidentally left on my air conditioner at home," Keech said.

"Obviously in that situation it didn't allow me to turn it off, but it made me less likely to make the same mistake again."

Keech said the Jemena portal also shows a "trend line ... that purports to be what consumers in the neighbourhood" are averaging in terms of electricity consumption.

"It gives people a benchmark against which they can see whether their usage is excessive or conservative, putting your usage in the context of other users nearby," he said.

How do they compare? "Good question," he said. "But the difficulty in [me] making a direct comparison is that most people in Melbourne get most of their heating from gas.

"At face value it looks like my electricity use is more than that of others, but when look at the big picture my situation is very good."

Re-skinning Jemena

Although larger retailers such as United Energy and Origin Energy have launched their own competing portals, such website development works could be out of reach for smaller retailers in the state.

Jemena hopes to fill that gap.

"We're expecting some of the smaller retailers who may not have the capital backing to build their own portal to ask us to skin their portal for them," Macfarlane said.

"So far we haven't started any of those discussions but we're expecting that's going to follow to make sure they're competitive."

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