As a Senior Director in the Opower Strategy & Marketing group, a key aspect of my job is understanding the needs of utilities and their customers today, where those needs are going in the future, and various ways that Opower can address those needs through our products and solutions.
Opower is expanding its international client footprint (see, for example, last month’s post introducing Tim Jones to the team). In a few weeks, I’ll be traveling to Japan to meet with various stakeholders to better understand the needs of that market. Given the Fukushima disaster last March, peak power reduction is one important consideration in Japan as remaining supply struggles to keep pace with demand. Peak power reduction could also translate over time into fewer power plants and lower energy prices for consumers. The energy industry has reduced peak demand in one of two ways:
1) direct load control (typically one-way or two-way communicating switches connected to high-load devices such as HVAC systems
2) price signals (typically new dynamic pricing plans enabled by smart meter deployments).
There is a third approach, however, that is quickly emerging and that I find quite exciting.
As part of Opower’s work with leading US smart meter deployments, we have found that our programs not only help consumers save energy generally, but have a meaningful impact on peak demand as well. This really wasn’t a surprise to us as we always hypothesized that consumers would find the biggest energy-saving opportunities when they were using the most (e.g., air conditioning on a hot day). With granular data from smart meters, we now have the data to quantify the impact.
Here’s what we saw, for example, at one utility in the Northeast United States. Using our standard test versus control measurement methodology, we compared peak energy savings per household for the top 100 summer hours as defined by PJM to all other summer hours for the first two years of our program (i.e., summer 2010 vs. summer 2011). After crunching the numbers, here are the results:
This was all accomplished using our standard energy efficiency content. Some of our other smart meter programs are starting to utilize content with a specific peak reduction focus (like the one below) which should only enhance Opower’s ability to impact peak demand in the future.
These are certainly exciting findings and I look forward to sharing them during my trip. This fall, our Analytics team will go even further and analyze billions of additional smart meter reads to understand our impact on peak demand across the nation in 2012. Can’t wait to see how this story continues to unfold over time.