Why can’t you get an correct, fact-based on-line quote for a rooftop solar system, backup battery or electrical automobile charger as simply as getting a quote on, say, a mortgage refinancing or dwelling insurance coverage coverage? 

Devin Hampton, CEO of UtilityAPI, desires to make this imaginative and prescient a actuality. His firm has constructed a technology platform to handle the open, clear and safe trade of energy information, and this week the California-based primarily based startup introduced a pilot project with Silicon Valley Clean Energy to check it out. 

Over the approaching months, SVCE, a community-choice aggregator serving a lot of Santa Clara County, shall be inviting a handful of energy companies companies, starting from well-known solar and battery distributors to mom-and-pop solar trade suppliers, to take part. 

These companies will then have the ability to entry UtilityAPI’s software platform, which Hampton calls “a very robust platform for very dirty, unstructured data.”

At its coronary heart are the software programming interfaces to entry utility sensible meter databases, back-office billing programs and different shops of knowledge valued by solar installers, effectivity distributors and different such companies.  

Utility prospects have a proper to entry this information and share it with whomever they need underneath state regulation. And SVCE has full entry to it from the Pacific Gas & Electric sensible meters that join its prospects to the grid. 

In reality, PG&E and California’s different investor-owned utilities deployed their sensible meter networks greater than a decade in the past with guarantees of constructing this type of information extra simply out there. A majority of U.S. electrical prospects now have sensible meters, which might open data-sharing alternatives throughout the nation.

But a lot of this information nonetheless stays laborious to attain for purchasers, not to mention licensed third events, as we’ve famous in our ongoing coverage of the problem. Just getting historic snapshots of dwelling energy utilization can require a number of telephone calls, authorization kinds and lengthy ready intervals for every buyer information request. This usually forces companies to discover workarounds like manually inputting utility invoice information. 

The Obama administration’s Green Button initiative was designed to remedy these issues, specializing in creating a standard energy information normal for U.S. utilities. But regardless of this push for standardization, virtually each utility has carried out the technology in a barely completely different manner. 

For instance, the Green Button Connect information normal, which helps ongoing streaming of buyer information to licensed third events, is carried out in another way by California’s three investor-owned utilities, whereas Con Edison in New York, ComEd in Chicago and the statewide system in Texas all adopted completely different approaches,  Hampton mentioned.

And as a result of utilities aren’t identified for being agile software program builders, integrating with their distinctive implementations of Green Button Connect is a protracted and expensive course of, he mentioned. Even essentially the most superior, like PG&E, can take months of effort and tens of hundreds of {dollars} for software program builders to cross the connectivity assessments that allow an organization be a part of the utility’s drop-down menu of companies authorized to share buyer information.

These boundaries have severely restricted using sensible meter information by prospects. In states like California and Texas, the place tens of millions of consumers now have a wise meter, enrollment in on-line data-sharing stays within the low hundreds.

Standardizing DER data-sharing at scale

UtilityAPI has built-in with the back-end programs of about 30 U.S. utilities since its 2014 launch, Hampton mentioned. It additionally has greater than 1,00zero enterprise prospects, starting from small-scale residential solar installers to large-scale energy companies suppliers. 

In brief, the corporate has the IT infrastructure in place to allow interactions between SVCE’s prospects and authorized companies that look much more just like the one-click services we’ve come to count on from on-line retail and banking. 

“It could be something as simple as a kiosk at Home Depot offering solar quotes. I say, ‘Hey, I want to go solar.’ I type my name in here, I get a text message to prove it’s me, and I get a solar quote right there at the kiosk, based on my own energy use.”

Likewise, energy-efficiency suppliers searching for to adjust to California’s performance-based efficiency mandates might, with a single buyer acceptance click on on their web site, “tell you what you’re going to save — and it’s not an estimate, it’s not a range; it’s based on how you use energy in your home or business.” 

The ongoing information streams enabled by Green Button Connect open up much more prospects, he famous. Revenue-grade meter information is of nice worth to energy services firms, energy-efficiency suppliers and different events that want to constantly monitor and preserve investments in constructing HVAC, lighting and different main electrical masses. 

This information may be invaluable for behind-the-meter batteries, sensible thermostats, EV charging programs and different distributed energy assets. In reality, UtilityAPI gained an Energy Department SunShot grant in 2017 to allow the sharing of energy information between solar suppliers and utilities, as a part of this system’s purpose of decreasing prices for solar energy. 

SVCE and UtilityAPI plan to begin beta-testing the platform subsequent month and launch in January. “This platform is really geared toward streamlining the authorization of access to customer data, which we think will really reduce cost and friction to access this marketplace,” mentioned Aimee Bailey, SVCE’s director of decarbonization and grid innovation. 

California’s utilities and community-choice aggregators are underneath stress to drastically enhance their share of carbon-free energy to meet the state’s aggressive clean-energy and carbon-reduction targets. SVCE hopes the UtilityAPI pilot will degree the enjoying discipline for small and medium-size companies when it comes to accessing the info that’s crucial to success within the DER area. 

UtilityAPI is concerned about pursuing related tasks with different utilities. At some level, utilities which have persevered in making an attempt to construct and help their very own Green Button Connect programs might determine it’s higher to flip to a drop-in platform, one which’s already the de facto information standardization for connecting that information, and one with a nationwide record of distributors massive and small already up and operating, CEO Devin Hampton mentioned. 

Whatever resolution utilities find yourself embracing, it would have to have the ability to scale far past right this moment’s DER markets, he mentioned.

“When you move to the world where you have demand-response providers or thermostat companies or large-scale EV deployments, and many local businesses needing to share this data — it’s all about scalability and automation.”

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