Home Your Tech Origin’s trial of next-gen home energy solution – will it cut bills?

Origin’s trial of next-gen home energy solution – will it cut bills?

Origin Energy will trial cutting edge new tech that “will help put customers back in the driver’s seat when it comes to their household energy use and costs".

This new Origin Energy development sounds like it will energise the company and its customers, and is an insight into the state of Origin.

You see, Origin is teaming up with a tech start-up based in the state of California, Bidgely, and what they’re bidding to do, in unison, sounds big!

The trial will see Bidgely’s tech in the homes of 5000 Origin customers in Victoria, which we’re told will provide those customers (and presumably Origin and Bidgely, too) with what is dubbed “a rare insight into where energy is being used in their household".

Now, the first thing I’d say to that, is that not everyone just plugs their devices into power sockets willy-nilly without thinking or caring about where their power is going.

There have been a range of power measurement devices you’ve been able to buy for individual powerpoints and for your entire house and your circuit board for years, so when someone tries to claim they’re the origin for a particular type of idea, I’m often reminded there’s nothing new under the sun.

That said, plenty of new technologies and devices and ideas still do nevertheless emerge, so… what’s the extra detail on what makes this Origin and Bidgely mash-up different?

Well, for a start, we’re told that “this is one of the first projects being run out of O hub – a new office in Melbourne where Origin people are co-located with Australian tech start-ups, which is dedicated to rapidly prototyping, developing and trialling new customer solutions.

And this is where Tony Lucas, Origin’s executive general manager for “Future Energy”, plugs into the equation and tells us that, “It’s very hard to do anything about your rising energy bill if you can’t see where you are using energy in the first place.

“We are really excited to be trialling this new technology with our customers because it will provide them with more information about their energy use than ever before, and this can help them control their energy costs.”

Of course, had the power companies not “gold plated” their poles and wireless in the last decade, and were Australia’s energy policies a lot smarter, and were the power companies dramatically less greedy, and if they paid executives no more than politicians or the Prime Minister is paid, then sure, prices would be lower.

Still, when your power company executives get paid like bank executives, and you get shiny expensive brochures with your bill that cost a motza, we all know why a country with such abundant energy sources (like the never ending flames from Drogon) has problems with a “rising energy bill.”

I mean, if we perhaps had a real Drogon and flew it over to Origin Energy headquarters, or those of AGL, and showered them with a bit of organic, renewable dragon flame, we might see prices lower – permanently.

Unfortunately, Australians are left to play the Game of Bill Shock instead, so any crumbs eked out to them via otherwise interesting sounding initiatives from Bidgely and Origin (and others who will presumably copy the trial) are things for which we obviously have to be grateful.

So, all of that flammable and inflammatory commentary aside, how does Bidgely’s tech work with Origin’s power?

Well, here we’re told that “Bidgely’s world-leading solution uses disaggregation technology to analyse data from an electricity smart meter and provide an estimated breakdown of a household’s energy use into different appliance categories".

“The data from the smart meter is combined with weather data and statistical analysis to present the customer with personalised alerts at different points during their billing cycle.

“The alerts can break down household energy into multiple categories including – always on, heating, cooling, lighting, refrigeration, laundry, cooking, and entertainment plus (if applicable) water heater and pool pump.

“Households will also be able to compare their energy use to previous periods and they will receive helpful tips on how they may be able to adjust their energy use and save money.”

It does actually sound pretty good – just as long as the “smart meter” doesn’t one day force you to turn your device off or lower when you might not want to do that.

It’s here that Lucas — from a power company in the galaxy of Victoria far, far away from where I’m typing this — pops in to say: “Until now, it’s been difficult to provide customers with information about what may be contributing to their energy bill, as the technology was costly.

“Bidgely’s solution is simple, intuitive and just the start of the energy revolution that will change the way customers interact with energy in the home.”

I think Lucas is trying to tell is that the force is strong with this solution!

Naturally, it is at this moment that Origin wishes to remind us that it is a forward thinking energy company which works hard to “anticipate and respond to changing customer demands".

Aside from what I presume is the No.1 customer demand for prices not to rise, Origin tells us its initiatives in this space have been as follows:

  • O hub – an Origin team located offsite in a collaborative work-space with other Australian start-ups dedicated to rapidly prototyping and trialing new customer solutions.
  • Co-founding Free Electrons – a global accelerator bringing together eight forward-thinking utilities and 12 leading start-ups in renewables, smart grids, electric vehicles and home energy management.
  • Principal sponsor of EnergyLab – the new home for clean energy innovation and Australian Energy technology start ups, which is located at the University of Technology, Sydney.
  • Establishing a presence in Palo Alto, California – helping facilitate our access to the vibrant Silicon Valley start-up community

 Abhay Gupta, chief executive of Bidgely, said, “Progressive utilities understand the value of disaggregating load data, and Origin joins a growing group of utilities that are taking this technology mainstream.

“Especially when it comes to energy retailers, the pressure to keep customers happy and retain their loyalty is paramount. Disaggregation provides retailers a way to differentiate in competitive markets while also helping them achieve their energy efficiency and customer engagement goals.”

Finally, Bidgely tells us that it “is transforming the way utility customers use energy. By combining the power of SaaS-based analytics with omni-channel interactions, Bidgely provides personalised and actionable insights that help customers save energy and enable utilities to build enduring customer relationships. The company works with utilities serving residential customers worldwide".

Bidgely's home page is here, and its blog is here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.