If you’re unfamiliar with the term Competitive Monopoly, let me start by giving you some examples. The technology industry has the most recognisable competitive monopolies – such as Facebook, who continues to dominate despite the loads of social networking sites. Similarly, retail giant Amazon dominates its rivals across verticals and geographies and is often heralded as the world’s largest online store. Meanwhile, Google competes with well-known search engines, yet it continues to enjoy massive market share. All of these companies are competitive monopolies. They operate in a competitive market, and yet they have some secret that makes everyone want to use their services and gives them monopolistic characteristics.
The utility of the future will fail or succeed based on how much it collaborates with others and the strength of its partnerships. Sharing information collected from technologies such as smart meters with the community it operates in will be key.
This may all sound counter intuitive. Why make information available that others could potentially use against you? Why make information open so others can provide services and generate revenue that you could have?
I see a lot of articles, and hear a lot of people talk about becoming a digital utility. But what does it mean to you? How do you gauge if you are a digital utility and so what if you are?
There is increasing excitement of late about the potential of peer to peer energy trading. In simple terms, peer to peer trading is the ability for a person to sell the excess electricity they generate to another person or organisation, as opposed to only being allowed to sell your electricity to your utility. But what if we could place a social lens on peer to peer energy trading? What if we had the ability to donate excess energy to a worthy cause?
Whether you believe the National Energy Guarantee, or N.E.G., is right for Australia depends on your world view. There have been both positive and negative opinions shared since the guarantee was announced last week. For me, I’m still on the fence. As always, the devil is in the detail, and we need to see how it starts to play out. My first reaction is that I am nervous that so much responsibility has been given to the retailers. If we look at other examples where this has occurred, while I like the concept of retail competition, I don’t think its execution has put the consumer first here in Australia. It has put the retailer first. I fear the same will happen with metering competition being introduced next month and I have the same concerns with the N.E.G. I am pleased we now have a framework within which to work, but disappointed in the emissions reduction target we have set and the underlying message on the Government’s own website that says reduced emissions…
“…cannot come at the expense of the reliability and affordability of our electricity system.”
I am not suggesting reliability and affordability are not vital, they are. I just feel we have placed the wrong emphasis on emissions. Instead of saying we need a reliable and affordable electricity system that must meet specific emissions targets, I was hoping we may have led the world by setting very aggressive emissions targets and made it clear we don’t compromise on this goal. We could have still paired this with reliability and price objectives, setting the stage for our brilliant engineers, scientists, and technologists, to innovate ways to achieve the target.
Australia already has the highest adoption of rooftop solar per capita in the world. With growing adoption of large-scale solar and wind, local battery storage and demand-side management, we are in a perfect position to catapult ourselves as a world leader in building a low carbon society. Given the N.E.G’s focus, have we now missed that opportunity?
On the surface, the N.E.G has provided a solid framework from which we can all work from, but it has not created the urgent call to action that the nation can be proud of and get behind. Australia has been making inroads on emissions reductions, but we are still one of the worst emitters per capita in the world.
Humankind has never achieved greatness by making incremental improvements. I only hope that as a community, we continue our adoption of behind the meter technologies and demand management services to move to a zero-emission society regardless of the targets set out in the National Energy Guarantee.
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Look out for my latest book ‘The Digital Utility’, to be published December 2017
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An industry peer recently told me we must not let perfect be the enemy of good if we are to stand any chance of adopting demand response as an essential part of our future energy mix. I cannot agree more.
It saddens me when I hear people, not involved in the utility industry, talk about demand response (DR) as an inconvenience to customers. It frustrates me when people within the utility industry tell the same story and claim DR will deliver no value.
I believe it’s time for a national education program to create a more informed energy consumer. We need a campaign that cuts through the complexity and negative spin that many in our industry create.
Demand Response is a hot topic in the Australian energy industry. Its inclusion in Dr Alan Finkel’s report, “Blueprint for the Future: Independent Review into the Future Security of the National Electricity Market” has given it much-needed credibility. The collaboration between ARENA and AEMO, launching a Demand Response (DR) initiative to secure 160MW of DR capacity has made it very real. Vendors are entering the market at pace. Energy retailers, network businesses, and energy aggregators seem to be announcing new pilots every other day. Despite all this activity, there is not much talk about customer experience.
‘Demand Response’ continues to get increased attention in the Australian media. It is interesting that even when discussing this activity outside of utilities, we have retained the term Demand Response. I don’t know why. Demand Response, or DR, as we call it, is an industry term and means nothing to the average energy consumer. Shouldn’t we begin referring to it as something that everyone can understand?