When was the last time you received a costly electricity bill, and you wondered what you could do to spend less? Shall I run the washing machine on a different program? Maybe the dishwasher? What about my new plasma TV? And that cute ornamental fountain in the backyard that runs days and nights, how much does it cost me?
Energy prosumers are not exposed to the details of their electricity usage. They often don’t know the difference between switching all lights off and reducing the time using a hairdryer. They rely on professional operators to decide whether or not to invest in a photovoltaic system or an electric heat pump. This contributes to generating a feeling of impotence and non-importance when actively taking part in the fight against climate change.
A survey of 400 homes in Michigan found that the average resident wrongly believed that she/he could save twice as much money by reducing lighting than using less hot water. Building contractors report that it is easier to sell a new home with visible solar collectors on the roof than with a passive solar design, added insulation, and other less-visible features, even though the latter would save energy more cost-effectively. But because these features are invisible to human eyes, people are less likely to believe in their energy-saving potential.
Prosumers have zero visibility of what happens behind the curtains of their monthly energy bill. There is an apparent disconnection between how electricity is made and how it is socially perceived.
In a bid to provide a solution to these challenges, we developed a pioneering project in collaboration with AEM (Azienda Elettrica di Massagno) that is financed by EnergieSchweiz and Fondo Energie Rinnovabili of Canton Ticino.
We analysed the consumption profiles of about 9k residential consumers belonging to the Lugano region, using 15-minute sampled load profiles read from L+G E450 smart meters. From this analysis, we discovered that the challenges faced by most energy consumers are due to the following anomalies:
- Inefficient heat pumps: when a user’s heat pump excessively resorts to its auxiliary resistance to maintain indoor comfort during cold winter days.
- Unreasonable standby power: for example, when a user’s consumption never drops below 200 W for several days in a row (maybe that cute water fountain wasn’t so efficient after all?).
- Anomalous consumption trends: when the general long-term trend of a user’s energy consumption drastically increases.
- Unexpected power peak: short anomalous high peaks of consumption could help spot a faulty electrical device.
What is DrainSpotter?
DrainSpotter is a user-centric mobile app that we are developing thanks to this ambitious project. With the DrainSpotter app, any user can monitor their electricity usage over time, receive informative summaries of their consumer behaviour, and be automatically notified about anomalies detected by machine learning algorithms.
Hive Power hopes to educate and empower consumers by making them actively responsible for their own energy savings with this app. This app will soon be accessible to all residential users of AEM.
How can DrainSpotter Benefit Customers and DSOs?
The DrainSpotter app helps consumers reduce their energy bill thanks to personalised recommendations and reports. DSOs will benefit from a community of users that modify their behaviour towards a more energy-efficient attitude.
As an example, we estimated that if all AEM’s residential users got rid of excessive standby power that lies above 200 W for more than 14 days consecutively:
- AEM would deliver 10% less energy in total,
- 5% of customers would reduce their total energy consumption by at least 20%,
- and 4.2% of customers would save at least 500 CHF off their total energy bill over a period of 1.5 years.
In addition to the obvious economic benefits, the DrainSpotter app:
- will guide users in the early detection of faulty appliances and anomalies that could cost them a portion of their electricity tariffs.
- Will provide users with a smart solution for monitoring energy consumption in their households, keeping track of how their utility bills are calculated in real-time.
- Will create room for automatic support services by the DSOs, who can now offer expert advice and/or solutions to a user’s complaints using the data from the app.
- Will grant users access to clear and concise information on how their bills are generated.
Smart metering is not smart enough if it doesn’t provide smart solutions to energy consumers and DSOs. With the DrainSpotter app, they can enjoy great benefits and efficiency in energy consumption and distribution.