What’s a topic that 200 people from across the commercial building, municipal, utility and technology development worlds can engage on? Capturing the potential for big data to realize environmental and economic energy savings. While Ontario energy players are doing good things with the energy data that’s available (specifically from the rollout of smart meters and other existing metering infrastructure), there is an opportunity to extract even more value from these data sets. In doing so, there is a potential to realize cost savings and accelerate achievement of conservation targets.

Companies showcase how they using innovative solutions to capture energy savings using big data.
Companies showcase  innovative solutions to capture energy savings using big data.

On February 19 the IESO and MaRS brought together the buyers and sellers of “big data” analytics solutions to meet and learn from one other. Co-hosted by the MaRS Discovery District’s Cleantech Venture Services Practice, the Advanced Energy Centre (AEC) and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the conference collected feedback from key players across the energy industry. The “Capturing Energy Savings using Big Data” event provided an opportunity to share best-in-class implementations, showcase innovative solutions and discussions around cutting edge ideas to drive opportunities for energy savings in Ontario. The session’s outcomes will inform programs and pilots, designed to more effectively utilize big data to meet Ontario’s Conservation Demand Management targets as outlined in the Green Energy Act.

Reporting on Key Outcomes

As demonstrated by over 70 service providers represented at the event, turning Ontario’s big energy data into customer and shareholder value is a market opportunity being seized by innovators and entrepreneurs. The conference engaged participants in an interactive three-hour workshop facilitated by CapGemini and Advanced Energy Centre representatives. The aim of these sessions was to find areas of convergence, disagreement and brainstorm big ideas for the future of energy data. Valued players from across the sector came together in a collaborative setting to share perspectives and facilitate change. Here are the high-level outcomes of these sessions:

  1. Data Standardization

    For data to be used effectively, it must be consistent and reliable. In order to achieve this, participants noted that a provincial or even national standard is necessary to improve data access, integrity and usefulness- data that is easy to access and easy to understand. A call was also made to coordinate data standards across all utilities: electricity, gas and water. The Green Button standard, being rolled out across Ontario demonstrates the potential of privacy enabled, secure and standardized access to energy consumption data. Green Button pilots such as London Hydro and Hydro One are already using this standard to collect data in a consistent format using both the residential (smart meter) and commercial sector (interval meter) data- unlocking potential for building managers and homeowners to reduce their energy costs and consumption.

  2. Privacy

    As data becomes available in greater quantities, concerns about how to manage privacy and data security arise. This was reflected in the workshops facilitated at the conference as attendees expressed a lack of clarity around energy data ownership and availability. In fact, throughout the session it became clear that there is not a good understanding of what privacy around energy data looks like. Participants noted that because of this ambiguity, data remains suffocated and is unable to be leveraged for energy savings.

  3. Value Proposition

    In the current system, the potential for cost and energy savings using data is not clear. Conference attendees noted the need to send a signal to residential and commercial customers by demonstrating the potential to realize savings through changed behaviour. To do this, guests suggested that the regulator provide policy direction and funding as incentive. Notably, many also mentioned the need to share success stories from utilities and others who are “winning by using data”.

Big Ideas for the Future of Energy Data

Motivated by a range of engaging speakers, conference participants also brainstormed big ideas for the future of energy data. Some include:

  • A Green Revolving Fund to enable conservation projects tied to data
  • Green Leases within which tenants absorb part of a landlords costs to improve energy usage
  • Pre-paid deposits/rebates to incentivize engagement with new data conservation standards and regulations
  • Home audits to ensure homes pass a standardized test when sold

Improved energy data access could accelerate our efforts and we heard that leaders in Ontario are pushing forward and turning data into opportunity. Cost savings and better buildings contribute to customer and shareholder value. Some utilities have already utilized smart meter data disaggregation and remote building audit tools to help pinpoint savings opportunities for their residential and commercial customers respectively. The day’s panellists demonstrated that organizations across Ontario are using data from smart and interval meters to enhance value to customers.

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Next Steps

The good news is there was a strong consensus on what Ontario needs. The better news is there are already initiatives underway to address those needs. And where there are still gaps to close, we have the opportunity to collaborate to do so.

The Advanced Energy Centre, MaRS Cleantech at the MaRS Discovery District and the IESO are coordinating and separately stakeholdering the following projects of relevance to this topic. Feedback from the Feb 19th event is being integrated into the following activities:

Green Button Standard (Ministry of Energy and MaRS): Enables customers (residential, commercial, institutional and industrial) to access and securely share electricity, natural gas and water data in a standardized format via their utility, with the ability to connect to mobile and web-based applications so they can analyze and manage their energy use. 60% adoption across residential and small commercial customers. Stakeholder consultations planned for spring/summer 2015.

Meter Data Access Project (Ministry of Energy, MaRS and IESO): Ministry of Energy sponsored initiative to develop a business case to assess the benefits, costs and implementation considerations for a provincial data access platform that considers additional data (eg. property, generation, commercial), together with MDM/R data, to create actionable insights for Ontario. The business case also considers new interfaces and functionality to enhance non-customer access to data by current users and enables access to new classes of users such as researchers, OEB, Ministry, IESO Planning & Conservation, and other parties.

Energy Innovation Snapshot (MaRS): an interactive online platform that highlights innovative energy companies and projects in Ontario and show how innovators are creating world-leading products. The platform will position Canada as a leading source of next generation energy innovation that can drive down costs and increase efficiency, and facilitate a greater understanding of energy innovation happening in Canada.

MDM/R Foundations Project (IESO): investigating how to enhance the value of the data set within Ontario’s Meter Data Management and Repository. A draft Stakeholder Engagement Plan and Working Group Terms of Reference for the “Foundations Project: Enhancing the Value of Electricity Consumption Data” are posted and Stakeholders are invited to provide feedback on the Plan.

IESO’s Conservation Fund (IESO): Intelligent efficiency will be a strategic priority for the fund in 2015. The fund is accepting applications for innovative research, pilot and demonstration projects. Contact Tom Aagaard to discuss your ideas.

MaRS and the IESO is following up with an internal session to discuss concrete next steps and will be seeking your involvement in addressing opportunities identified. The event on February 19 is just the start of many other conversations to leverage big data for energy savings. We look forward to continuing these discussions with you.


Read More

Read the REMI Network’s Conference Coverage: “Mining big energy data”

Learn more about innovative companies operating in this space:

 Interesting Ontario initiatives we heard from conference panellists:

Kathleen Gnocato

Kathleen Gnocato is Manager of the Utility Transformation Program for the Advanced Energy Centre at MaRS. See more…