The emergent field of energy analytics could soon be a boon to sustainability.
Several companies are now selling energy analytics apps that are superior to manual, data-crunching spreadsheets. The new apps leverage smart grid systems plus data collected by sensors via the IoT. The size of these datasets requires cloud-scale computing.
So business is investing in energy efficiency, not necessarily for altruistic reasons, but for smarter operational practice and efficiency as the tools available augment.
Among those leading the charge is FirstFuel, providing software for a customer intelligence platform that lets energy providers become advisors to their business customers.
Drawing on deep domain expertise in data analytics, building science and software deployments with large utilities, energy service providers, and government agencies in North America and Europe, FirstFuel’s SaaS solutions promise to accelerate customer acquisition, optimize energy efficiency and DSM programs, and boost customer engagement and satisfaction.
Clients such as the Department of Defense have realized approximately $4 billion in potential energy savings through remote assessments and analytics of more than 100 buildings.
We caught up with Indy Ratnathicam, VP of Marketing and Strategy at FirstFuel, to learn more.
In terms of broad sustainability, what’s the potential impact of energy analytics?
Advanced analytics enables utilities and their customers to create better sustainability at massive scale. By providing utilities with the intelligence to understand their customers' energy use, analytics can help give prescriptive information on how to make informed decisions around sustainability.
Analytics also enables scalable improvements to sustainability. It can be difficult for individual business customers to get information they need to make key sustainability decisions and analytics not only makes that process easier but does so while allowing utilities to deliver the right information to hundreds of thousands of them at a time.
Can you cite a specific case use?
“E.ON in theUK, an energy retailer with no sustainability laws/mandates, uses FirstFuel's advanced analytics to offer sustainability advice to 400,000 SMB customers. That information ultimately helps those customers reduce their energy bills.
What’s the biggest barrier for scaling energy analytics?
In order for energy analytics to have the broadest impact, it must operate in environments with lots of deep data — meaning that there is rich information sources that lead to actionable insights. While corporations are doing lots of great things with analytics individually, the power of energy analytics comes in with the scale that utilities bring.
Utilities have a high bar for accuracy, scalability and security, as well as integrated service for their customers, all things that FirstFuel works with customers on from the start of an engagement. We currently have more than 25 utility customers and serve more than 2.5 million commercial meters.
Why is Europe ahead of the U.S. in the Internet of Energy?
This comes down to how you define the Internet of Energy. U.S. utilities are making huge investments in the space of energy data analytics (our customer list of 20 plus customers here in the States is evidence of that). AMI data is more prevalent in theU.S.than most European countries — one example of where the company is as it relates to the Internet of Energy.
That said, Europe has higher energy costs, high levels of competition and has leaned further forward on sustainability. We've experienced these three key motivators as we've expanded into Europe with partners like E.ON and EDF.
How important is a smart meter grid to implement energy savings on a broad scale and what is the current status of that install-base?
The critical success factor for energy savings lies in available data — whether that be from smart meters or other sources. We have several utility customers who have yet to roll out smart meters or are in the process of doing so, but those organizations are still utilizing our advanced analytics on their existing monthly data to help provide great savings advice to customers, roll out new sustainability services and reduce customer service cost.
That said, smart meters provide a greater level of detailed data, and you can do a lot more with that. Advanced services, like trigger-based alerting, forecasting and peak-demand management are most effective when made in a timely manner, but can also be made more granular and compelling to customers with smart meters.
Other companies forging the growing IoE category include C3 Energy, launched in 2011 by serial entrepreneur Tom Siebel who sold his previous company to Oracle for close to $6 billion. By 2014, the Redwood City, Calif., company’s smart grid analytics software was in use by 20 utilities to manage more than 52 million smart meters, servicing consumer and commercial customers. C3 is also working with Italy’s Enel and Cisco Systems, striving to increase the accuracy of status on energy consumption in their facilities.
Daintree Networks offers integrated technology combining a wireless platform and an energy management system, called ControlScope that can be hosted in the cloud or on a local server and serves commercial and industrial facilities.
Ecova enables continuous monitoring across approximately 3,000 facilities and clients include big-box grocery chains, retailer JCPenney and fast-food chain Arby’s.
Retroficiency, acquired by Ecova, analyzes commercial building energy trends and generates models from meter-side data for customers including Pacific Gas & Electric, Consolidated Edison and National Grid.
As the IoT expands to include the IoE, the possibilities for more sustainable industrial and commercial operations give new meaning to the idiom, "every cloud has a silver lining."