In its first move outside of the US, home energy management (HEM) software company Opower is partnering with UK energy supplier First Utility to supply Opower’s software to First Utility’s smart meter customers.
The software is designed to help energy customers find ways to save on their bills and is apparently the first of its kind in the UK. Opower’s software translates First Utility’s smart meter data into a range of tools, including reports that show comparative consumption together with an analysis of household energy usage. The information can be accessed via mailed reports, web portal, email and SMS messages, as well as social media.
The Opower/First Utility tie-in has already received some coverage through its mentions in Behaviour Change and Energy Use. This is the UK Cabinet Office, Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), and Department for Communities and Local Government report just released. It’s a review of the potential for information obtained via smart meters to help reduce energy bills. (It goes some way to addressing the smart meter roll-out criticisms from the National Audit Office which I mentioned a couple of weeks ago).
It seems that the UK Cabinet Office’s spookly named ‘Behavioural Insights Team’ is working with Opower and First Utility to examine the potential for comparative consumption and other information to help UK consumers with smart meters to save energy.
This is where we are at with smart meters. It’s increasingly clear that the meters alone are not going to have a significant impact on consumer energy use – it needs much more information and support to be effective. In fact I would argue that smart meters will never really come into their own until we have smart grids in place. Only then will consumers be able to more actively participate in when they use energy, by choosing time-of-day tariffs, for example.
But this looks like a good move for both companies and puts them at the centre of smart meter discussions in the UK. It’s also interesting to note that First Utility was a Google partner for the now defunct PowerMeter. The more sophisticated approach of Opower and the trials by the UK government and utilities may go some way to explaining why Google has withdrawn from the market (for the time being). It’s a more complicated and involved aspect of green ICT than it initially seemed.