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Grid Modernization: Data as a Service

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Todd Ford's picture
President & CEO Hampshire Power Corporation

Todd has a long history of building successful, profitable, and innovative solutions in energy and real estate. He brings over nine years in renewable energy leadership, entrepreneurialism, and...

  • Member since 2021
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  • May 26, 2021 4:15 am GMT
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2021 - 05 - Grid Modernization, click here for more

Community solar continues to strengthen solar energy’s position as a viable and profitable option for grid power production. Before going live, though, solar arrays need to be filled with subscribers. For developers and independent power producers (IPPs), finding the right partners to acquire and manage subscribers and their data is risky. The application of a one-size-fits-all package by service providers stifles efficiency and profits. Each project is nuanced and needs to be managed accordingly.

Custom, risk-averse approaches to customer acquisition and management are the key to scaling community solar projects to meet the growing needs of the modern grid. As community solar captures more of the energy market, customer data security and accessibility must grow and scale with it. IPP reliance on customer management service providers is only likely to increase with the demand of community solar project development. In order to mitigate risk and enhance decision making as the stakes grow with the market, it is crucial that service providers connect to secure systems and collect new, insightful customer data -- and their reports must be usable and adaptable.

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While there is no crystal ball to predict if and when risks, like unexpected default or attrition, will happen, there is technology available to view customer consumption directly through the utility each month, compare to previous months, identify changes in consumption patterns, and react to changes before they happen. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) allows for unprecedented usage transparency capabilities. The constant, live monitoring of electricity patterns and credit and business health allow community solar project owners and their service providers to identify potential issues before they happen.

With smart technology like EDI available, the demand for data as a service increases. Customer relations management is no longer simply sales and customer service. Customer data is a commodity that will only become more valuable as we move towards a renewable grid. EDI provides instant historic usage results which provides insight to aid in the approval of potential subscribers, credit allocation, and risk mitigation. But EDI is available only to retail energy providers, meaning traditional service providers are not able to access this customer data directly from utilities. Service providers with access to EDI connections provide valuable data and insights to their IPP partners, and are sure to heavily influence community solar’s impact on grid modernization.

Solar energy is an important contributor in the movement to modernize the grid with renewable energy. With so many barriers between rooftop solar and consumers, such as rental properties, trees, and the position of roofs, large-scale solar arrays are leading the charge. As more people and businesses opt in to community solar, service providers must deliver thorough, concise, and dynamic reports with fresh insights monthly to IPP partners in a usable and flexible format.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 26, 2021

While there is no crystal ball to predict if and when risks, like unexpected default or attrition, will happen, there is technology available to view customer consumption directly through the utility each month, compare to previous months, identify changes in consumption patterns, and react to changes before they happen.

Are these month-to-month changes in patterns a bigger concern than the unexpected moments? Obviously something like the Texas grid during the February storm wasn't going to be caught by looking at mont-to-month patterns, but what types of incidents would be caught by this type of monitoring? 

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Jun 10, 2021

Good points. No doubt that information and access to it will play a key role in how this market develops. EDI is a mature technology, one that offers a way to exchange information. It could play a key role as the industry moves forward. 

Carlos Sousa's picture
Carlos Sousa on Jun 22, 2021

It is no coincidence that Japan has started a major project to address how to use energy company customer data: https://www.gdb-lab.jp/
The Japanese are considering that 5.0 society's greatest asset is data, not facilities.
Todd's provocation makes a lot of sense, because utilities really need to learn to generate greater value with the data they have...

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