The Chapel Group

Clean Technology. Made Simple.

How do you define a Digital Utility?

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?

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Can we donate excess electricity to help support our community?

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?

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Is the National Energy Guarantee right for Australia?

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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Demand Response – don’t let perfect be the enemy of good

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.

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Is it time for a national education program on flexible energy?

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.

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In Australia’s rush to adopt Demand Response – who is thinking about the customer?

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.

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If not Demand Response, then what?

‘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?

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The importance of good program design in Demand Response

Demand Response (DR) is finally starting to pick up momentum in Australia. We have an opportunity to get it right the first time, to learn from others and not miss out vital steps.

The idea of Demand Response is to reduce or shift energy use during a particular period. We can do this by collaborating with consumers, influencing them to change behaviour or allowing us to remotely control their devices.

But how do you know if a customer changes their energy use because of your program? How do you know their energy use would not have been the same, even without the DR event?

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What role should energy companies play in connected homes?

I have written about the connected home, and how the giant is now awakening.  Both startups and established players are entering this space with everyone from home entertainment to white goods manufacturers.  Those of us in the energy industry need to ask ourselves, what will our future role be in this space?  At this stage in the evolution of the connected home, we just don’t know.

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