How to Access Utility Interval Data

Andrea Duke  |  March 16, 2018   |  Energy & Sustainability  

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Interval Data Access

Now we want to just shift gears a little bit and talk about the other side of the equation, the metering data. When gathering AMI, advanced metering or smart metering information, this is really normally a natural evolution for an energy management platform and energy management team. Once you’ve made some decision about how to source and how to place the invoice information, your next step is going to be going after the metered source.

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Here the primary sources are going to range from initiatives, I’m sure you’ve all heard of Green Button, that’s a great example, all the way the other end of the spectrum to hardware installation and network infrastructures themselves. Managing those different source types, again, with Green Button on the one hand, we’re talking just about some way to interface with data download capabilities or using APIs all the way out to maybe once again using a service partner or provider if you’re dealing with maybe a more complicated integration.

Green Button

Here too, we’ll just quickly look at the landscape of these source types and talk in a little more detail about each. Let’s start with Green Button. This is easily the most publicized source of meter-based information. It was officially launched in 2012, started in the West Coast. I think as of now there’s somewhere between 50 and 100 utilities and suppliers that made or have made an announcement that they will participate in this initiative.

The first thing we have to note here is this was generally advertised as a value added service, free of charge to most users, and it was also designed to be vendor friendly, so not just a way for you to see your own meter information but also a way that assuming that you had a sizeable portfolio and a complicated organization you could also share that information with partners and vendors without too much hassle.

Because it is a published standard that means that there are commercially available front ends being developed all the time, and that in house development, if that’s the method you choose, is also going to be a more viable option. You’ll hear the industry term Green Button Connect used a lot, and that’s really just a signal for pieces of software or services that have already taken the steps to integrate with that standard.

Now we just have to mention as a possible negative or at least worth noting that most of this data is going to be day behind at best. It’s 15-minute or interval, but generally if you compare it to some sort of real time system you are most likely going to be dealing with somewhere between 24  to 48-hour delay in receiving this data in most cases. We also just have to mention that, in general, overall adoption of Green Button has been slower than most people hoped.

Utility Proprietary System

An alternative here would be that prior to 2012 a lot of the larger utilities have a legacy system or proprietary system that they either built in total or in some part on their own as a platform to provide their customers, both commercial and possibly residential, with smart metering information. A good example of this would be San Diego Gas and Electric. They actually offer both, a Green Button avenue as well as continuing to support a legacy system. I believe their internal system is known as Quick View.

Advantages to a proprietary system as opposed to Green Button are:

  • Sometimes the data sets are a little more free for you to customize or adjust.
  • There may be things like recorders at the monthly level and maybe you can get closer to the real time into the spectrum than you could on the Green Button.
  • There’s usually a reporting tool set that sits on top, and there may be an extended set of data points when compared to Green Button.

It’s not unusual, frankly, to have customers that have a choice with certain utilities of using Green Button or the legacy system. A lot of times the better system may look to be going with the legacy system in place as opposed to adopting Green Button.

The biggest weakness that has to be mentioned here is the price barrier. Most of the non-Green Button data sources do have a subscription fee associated, and we also need to mention that right now there’s a certain, a significant amount I would say, of pricing inconsistency in the market. This is a service that really the industry just hasn’t made up its mind about. There are orders of magnitude differences between some utilities and others. It is generally priced by meter, but you’ll see examples out there of utilities and providers that think this is somewhere south of $10 per meter per month, and you will see examples of service providers that think it’s somewhere north of $100 per meter per month.

Very similar to this example is just a slight tweak which are utilities as a variation on this theme that have just decided to purchase commercially available packaging as their platform and use that to provide the advanced metering information to their customers. Here, again, you’re more likely to have control over setting more custom interval ranges and trying to get closer to real time into the spectrum.

The fact that these services are sold to utilities produces a number of advantages:

  • Having been productized, it’s more likely that they’ve been well tested and vetted in the market.
  • They’re sold to different utilities; therefore, they are cross-regional, they’re cross-utility, and so that means on their own they’ve created a bit of a standard.
  • There’s likely going to be reporting tool sets to sit on top of this more so than there would be for Green Button.

Here, however, the pricing barrier and all the same concerns are going to exist as well.

Submetering

The most divergent method of collection that we’ll discuss and the final one here is actually submetering, completely independent of the utility. A certain type of user is going to decide to build their own infrastructure, buying hardware and networks to support secondary or shadow meters on their own. Here we’re talking about absolute control, a total custom design of a system, data streams that you may decide just start at the main meter and are just a secondary way to watch the utility.

Here, interval periods are completely up to you. This is where true real time metering would be possible, and here also there’s going to be a large marketplace for different hardware vendors for you to choose from, software packaging, and also numerous subcontractors that specialize in helping get these programs installed, calibrated and maintained.

Cost here is also going to be one of the significant things that has to be considered, especially first cost in getting the deployment, the programming of these devices set up at the level of detail that you need across your fleet. This is without question a superior set of data, but there’s going to be a much higher program commitment required.

Interval Data Provider

As with billing and invoice data, we’re going to list service specialists or data providers as a necessary consideration for interval data. The same sort of questions are going to be required. Do you want to build a program in-house and develop all that time and effort, or are you an organization, again, depending on your complexity, that maybe is a better fit for engaging a partner?

In summary, there are so many different utility data sources and based on those sources there are so many different options of how you’re going to integrate or incorporate those into your software platform, your database systems. Think about the pros and cons of those approaches. You’re probably always going to have a hybrid mix, certain types of sources and certain types of methods in some regions, in some territories and different ones in others. You need to consider: what are the advantages of doing this in house? What would the advantages be of working with an expert or specialists? If you’re ready to learn how Urjanet’s Utility Data Platform can help automate your utility data collection process, contact us today.

Check out this presentation to find out more about accessing utility data:

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About Andrea Duke

Andrea is a former Marketing Communications Manager at Urjanet. She is an experienced writer and content strategist, and is passionate about sustainability.