Wattwatchers smart energy hub allows users to track usage in real time

A new way of tracking electricity usage will help to integrate renewables into the grid and allow consumers to make more informed decisions.

Wattwatchers are setting out to install their “super smart” energy devices in 5000 homes and businesses, as well as 250 schools, to allow energy usage data to be monitored in real time.

ARENA is providing $2.7 million in funding for the Sydney startup to develop the “My Energy Marketplace” data hub, which will include a mobile app and opportunities for customers to share their information with relevant third parties.

This could include demand response or virtual power plant aggregators, or authorities like the Australian Energy Market Operator and electricity distribution networks who are seeking greater visibility over household energy usage.

The $8 million, three year project offers a pathway towards the smart home of the future. Energy usage information, together with data from smart appliances and other internet of things technologies will be shared through a cloud based platform.

Participants data will be protected, with individual users able to decide whether to allow companies to access their information.

Wattwatchers smart energy monitoring devices
Wattwatchers “super smart” energy monitoring devices

ARENA CEO Darren Miller said the support for Wattwatchers is an example of ARENA’s focus on integrating renewables into the electricity system.

“Whether it’s rooftop solar, battery storage, energy efficiency, controlling electricity loads and appliances remotely, or the uptake of electric vehicles, we need better data to effectively run the future grid consisting of more and more decentralised consumer energy assets,” Mr Miller said.

The energy industry is grappling with the challenge of transitioning to a two directional energy system, where energy generated behind the meter by distributed energy resources like rooftop solar is being exported back into the grid. During periods of high generation, this can impact the voltage of the grid and cause stability problems.

“The Wattwatchers project is designed to provide both the data and consumer participation needed to manage an increasingly decentralised electricity system. This also aligns strongly with other ARENA-funded initiatives for DER [Distributed Energy Resources], demand response and new marketplaces.”

The ARENA funding will allow Wattwatchers to roll out the service nationwide at a discounted rate.

Wattwatchers CEO Gavin Dietz said their system will help to empower energy consumers.

“With more and better data, consumers will be better informed to buy their energy. They can identify and take action on energy efficiency opportunities, both behavioural and appliance-driven, and use energy at times that suit them,” Mr Dietz said.

“Network businesses and market operators currently have poor visibility of the low-voltage grid, which is connected to over 10 million Australian consumer sites, and face a mission critical challenge to both see and control DER as Australia moves to higher and higher penetration of renewable energy, especially small-scale solar.”

A screenshot of the Wattwatchers dashboard that monitors generation and consumption in real time
Wattwatchers dashboard monitors generation and consumption in real time

ARENA supporting breakthroughs in distributed energy transformation

ARENA is also supporting the Distributed Energy Integration Program, which is bringing together government agencies, electricity networks, industry associations and consumer groups to accommodate the growth in behind the meter energy technologies.

In its first full year of operation, DEIP launched initiatives to keep electricity stable, secure and affordable, even when a large proportion generated behind-the-meter.

The Australian Energy Market Operator has identified the lack of visibility over household energy consumption from the rise of DER as a key challenge. Areas with a strong uptake of rooftop solar are already making it difficult for AEMO to identify the underlying demand for electricity and manage the frequency of the network.

To tackle the emerging challenges, last year ARENA provided $9.6 million in funding to 12 new projects in the distributed energy funding round. Five funding recipients are trialling new ways to maximise the amount of distributed energy that the network can accommodate, while maintaining stability. A further seven studies will investigate how high penetrations of distributed energy can be successfully integrated into the energy market and grid.

ARENA has also provided funding for AEMO to undertake its virtual power plant integration trial.