Adding value

For some time, companies have been using automated meter reading (AMR) and smart meters to manage energy use. These meters provide half-hourly data to energy suppliers, which allows them to build an accurate energy consumption profile for each customer. These behavioral insights can then help customers reduce waste and control their outgoings.

But the potential of smart meters doesn’t end there. Used in the right way, the data can provide businesses with a valuable asset that goes far beyond their monthly or quarterly energy bill. Yet, without the proper technology to interpret it and put it to work, the data sits dormant. This is where artificial intelligence comes in.

By integrating smart and AMR meters with AI and machine learning, energy suppliers can turn raw data into intelligent conversations about sustainability, health and safety, and competitor analysis. These conversations can provide actionable insights, which helps companies improve operational efficiency, security, and in some cases, profitability.

Anomaly detection
The granularity of the data means that suppliers can use it to detect anomalies in a customer’s energy consumption, enabling businesses to pinpoint spikes, outages, or unusual activity and isolate the cause. Not only is this useful from a money-saving point of view, but can also protect a business from safety risks.

For example, if a business experiences significant changes in their overnight usage, it could mean equipment has been left running or that there’s an electrical fault – something that could prove costly and, in some cases, even dangerous. If your hot water pump is leaking because you’ve left it on, anomaly detection could detect the change in your usage and alert you to the problem, protecting businesses from potential safety risks and providing assurances everything is working as it should be.

Benchmarking is another benefit of using AI to interpret energy consumption data. This works by comparing consumption profiles for similar business types and highlighting any key trends based on their similarities and differences.

By using aggregated and anonymous data sets, benchmarking analysis can provide a factory, for example, with insights on whether other factories in the same city are operating within the same hours as they are. It can also tell whether competitors are consuming less energy. This can prompt questions about how to be more energy efficient and reduce the company’s carbon footprint. You can scale benchmarking to any business size in most sectors, with larger companies benefitting from even greater efficiencies.

Future uses
In the future, the combination of AI and smart meters will only serve us further as new technologies emerge. For example, it could be used to turn the lithium-ion batteries in an electric vehicle into back-up storage.

By mapping when the vehicle batteries are not likely to be required, companies can turn their stationary vehicles into additional energy sources. The energy could also be used to help stabilize the grid by sending saved-up energy into the grid at peak times.

Making data work for the customer
Anomaly detection and benchmarking are both compelling examples of how energy suppliers can apply AI to metering data to add value to the customer. They show the importance of models that stimulate intelligent conversations around energy consumption, rather than providing data for the sake of it.

For this information to continue to be interesting and of genuine use, suppliers need to tailor it to customers. These conversations could then lead to decisive action on an individual level, which could then amount to collective and widespread change. It’s this collective action that will enable the UK to meet its net zero carbon emission targets and fight against climate change. And it all starts with the smart meter.

By Rob Milloy is Director of Sales at Drax Group. Drax Group’s purpose is to enable a zero carbon, lower cost energy future and in 2019 announced a world-leading ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) technology. Its 2,900 employees operate across three principal areas of activity – electricity generation, electricity sales to business customers and compressed wood pellet production.
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