A device to help you take charge of your electricity bill

Electricity has gotten expensive, that’s no secret. But as a consumer it’s hard to take control of your power bill and start reducing costs when you don’t have a clear idea how much you are using.

Here is some great news for households and businesses that should make that process much easier.

Award-winning technology start-up Wattwatchers will expand production and development of its Internet of Things energy management devices, with a new investment from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

Most people currently get their energy consumption data when they receive their bill, so it can be months before they know how much electricity they’ve used – and what it has cost them.

Wattwatchers devices allow users to monitor their electricity consumption in real time, giving consumers the data they need to save money and reduce carbon pollution by managing their energy more efficiently.

How Wattwatchers works

The “clamp on” devices are installed on the consumer side of the utility billing meter – hence the term behind-the-meter – and can be connected to multiple individual circuits. Data about the consumer’s power use is uploaded to the cloud and can be easily accessed. Real world residential and business applications include helping to manage equipment on separate circuits, like pool pumps or air conditioning, so they can be set up to only run when the sun is shining and solar panels are operating at peak efficiency.

The Wattwatchers device also helps householders to manage their grid connected solar panels and maximise the financial benefits of solar power.

For example, as generous feed-in tariff incentives are phased out, the Wattwatchers device can help consumers save on energy costs by assisting them to maximize their energy requirements to day time when the sun is shining, or storing it for the night, and only exporting to the grid at low feed-in rates if no better use is available.

Wattwatchers internet enabled devices
Wattwatchers’ internet enabled devices help consumers better track their energy use. IMAGE: Wattwatchers.

Wattwatchers was founded in 2007 and has been working steadily to develop, pilot and commercially launch its energy data technology. Last year it won the Australian Technologies Competition New Energy Award.

Perfect opportunity

CEFC Chief Executive Ian Learmonth said that high energy prices and rooftop solar’s high domestic uptake provide the perfect opportunity to work smarter with energy.

“Wattwatchers represents what we expect will be the first wave of innovative behind-the-meter technologies that can provide ongoing savings for householders and businesses, while delivering information that can also improve the security and stability in the supply of energy from the grid.”

The Wattwatchers device will soon come with a standard application that gives access to real time graphs and basic budgeting tools in the cloud.

There are also is a growing range of partner applications for more specialist solar monitoring, business energy management tools and other task-specific applications to provide analysis and advice for consumers.

Future applications

The next phase of Wattwatchers’ development is control functionality, allowing the device to be used for demand response and automatically turning equipment on or off when excess demand in heat waves puts too much stress on the energy grid.

Wattwatchers will be focusing on working with third party providers over coming months to develop more wide-ranging applications for home and business owners keen to manage increasingly onerous energy costs.

They are particularly interested in supporting more complex battery management applications. Currently, the device can connect to battery circuits and monitor energy flows into and out of a battery but doesn’t necessarily talk to the battery itself. Further development of integrated battery management could help consumers automate the decision to store energy during low demand periods or sell it back to the grid when demand is high.

Demand response applications have the potential to generate income for householders who assist with grid-wide energy management. Large pools of individual consumers could receive credits for choosing to turn off high energy consumption equipment like air conditioning or pool pumps during critical periods.

The devices could also allow people to monitor how they integrate and distribute solar loads with the grid making it easier to manage supply security or voltage problems on the grid due to solar energy export spikes.

Demand response technology already has a strong foothold in the North American and European markets. Australia’s high penetration of domestic rooftop solar points to strong opportunities for similar technology here.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s $2 million investment is made through the Clean Energy Innovation Fund, a partnership between CEFC and ARENA.

It is also part of Wattwatchers’ $4 million 2017 Series A capital raising. The first $2 million tranche is held by Renewable Energy Venture Capital fund which is independently managed by Southern Cross Venture Partners for co-funders the ARENA and Softbank China.

The additional investment will be used to accelerate production of the devices, development of software upgrades, software tools to go with the devices, tools to assist installers and additional software applications.

More information about Wattwatchers and the products currently available is on their website: www.wattwatchers.com.au

This article was originally written by Jane Gilmore, Journalist.