Bidgely announces the addition of solar disaggregation for utilities to its platform. The software gives utilities and their residential solar customers insights on energy use at a granular level, engaging customers and providing utilities a comprehensive view of the energy demands of all solar and grid-tied residential customers.
As consumers shift their mindset to solar power, utilities are worrying about losing them altogether. How can utilities keep their customers engaged?
Bidgely, a customer empowerment and business intelligence platform for utilities, says it has the answer. Last week, the company announced it has added solar disaggregation for utilities to its platform. We took the opportunity to speak with head of marketing Steve Nguyen at Intersolar North America about Bidgley’s new offerings and plans for the future.
Bidgely’s solar disaggregation, Nguyen says, gives utilities and their residential solar customers insights on energy use at a much more granular level than has been possible in the past.
Energy disaggregation separates a whole-home energy signal into its component appliances. Current electricity meters report only whole-home data, which isn’t that much help to either utilities or their customers. Bidgely is changing this. The company’s HomeBeat™ home energy portal tracks solar generation and consumption alongside grid energy use, providing a unified energy management experience.
The appeal for utilities? Bidgely says its new technology empowers utilities to reclaim the relationship with solar customers — while also getting a comprehensive view of the complex energy demands of all solar and grid-tied residential customers. The software helps them plan better, since they can see what’s happening at the transformer level, and allows them to provide customers information on solar and appliances.
In fact, Nguyen says, the company’s software was developed at the request of utilities.
But there’s a lot in it for residential customers, too. The service goes beyond the Green Button to provide personalization that customers can’t get from their solar provider or utility, and even gives personalized recommendations. With the sparse Green Button information, Nguyen says, “You have to be your own detective.” The Bidgely portal removes that burden.
Bidgely believes that having access to their service will lead to significant changes in home energy consumption. A recent study, the company says, revealed the service can reduce whole-home energy use by 6%. Moreover, 90% percent of study participants used the platform at least once a week, reflecting strong customer engagement — a key selling point for utilities. It will be interesting to see if utilities manage to maintain this level of customer engagement over time.
I tried the service myself and found it relatively easy to sign up, once I was able to locate the needed information on my power bill. Then all I had to do was open the portal to see my daily energy usage, by the billing cycle or even by the hour. (The information is delayed by a day, as is Green Button data.) I don’t have an energy monitor or solar power, so I am still a bit limited in what I can see. But a customer with both of those might see something as detailed as this:
I can choose which alerts I want to get — for example, the system can alert me if I’m approaching a new rate tier or if my daily usage increases significantly. I can get weekly and monthly consumption status alerts, keeping me engaged in case I’m not accessing the dashboard often on my own.
How does Bidgely get this level of information? That’s the company’s secret sauce, says Nguyen. If you’re wondering how accurate it can be, their white paper “Solar Energy Disaggregation Using Whole-House Consumption Signals” explains how Bidgely’s algorithms accurately disaggregate solar generation given net metered energy consumption and weather data. The white paper concludes that Bidegly’s algorithms are more accurate and practical than previous approaches.
Nguyen says the company’s data scientists have been studying the problem for years, which is a key ingredient of the company’s value; they’re providing something that’s just not within the core capabilities of either utilities or solar companies, and that would take competitors years to develop.
And they’re providing it at a time when utilities are eager to engage and reclaim their customers. Utilities don’t want to lose customers to Google or Nest, after all. According to Nguyen, utilities using the Bidgely platform “will become the next-generation service provider – they don’t want Comcast or Apple to own the energy mind of the customer.” To that end, utilities are even interested in helping customers become more energy-efficient, because that’s what customers are asking for.
There are all kinds of applications for Bidgely’s service. “Once you can disaggregate information,” Nguyen says, “you can do more with it.” Utilities might work with appliance dealers to offer discounts to customers whose heavy appliance use indicates wear and tear. They might work with solar companies to find new customers whose energy profile is similar to that of existing solar customers.
For now, Bidgely is making its service available to utilities that are delivering their customers smart meter data via the Green Button data standard. During what the company is calling the “Freedom Summer,” they’re offering a white label portal at no product cost to utilities. Although Nguyen declined to name participating utilities, he says a number of pilots are being conducted around the country and even the world. That’s a testament to the fact that utilities are realizing they need to change how they operate.
“It’s a real lightbulb for utilities,” says Nguyen. “It’s not so much about the death of utilities as the evolution of customers. Utilities that decide not to do anything will be marginalized.”