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Innowatts Speaks to the Value of Utility Customer Load Disaggregation, Predictive Analytics for Distributed Energy Resources Management

A lots at stake for the economy and society, as well as utilities, their customers and new, or recent, market entrants as distributed, digital, low or zero-carbon energy technologies are deployed across the power and energy value chain. The ability to monitor operating conditions, analyze data and adjust to fluctuating flows of electricity originating “behind the meter” in real- or near real-time is one of the keys to success – whether it's from electric vehicles, inside smart, connected homes, commercial and industrial facilities or community microgrids equipped with on-site, renewable power and/or battery energy storage systems.

Two digital, decentralized energy-driven companies – Israel's mPrest and Houston, Texas-based Innowatts – are aiming to do just that. Leveraging their respective strengths and joining forces, the mPrest and Innowatts intend to create a comprehensive, real-time monitoring, analytics, risk management and decision support systems platform, as well develop advanced automated metering infrastructure (AMI) analytics, capable of delivering “asset health and system operations support” encompassing everything from “behind the meter” distributed energy and demand response resources to utility-scale grid assets and infrastructure.    

MPrest has made a name for itself by developing leading edge, enterprise-scale, command and control systems across and expanding range of vertical private and public industry sectors. Innowatts' success is rooted in its ability to develop innovative, teal-time predictive analytics and management systems for utility customer side distributed energy resources and smart, connected electrical and electronic devices and equipment. Energy Central spoke with Innowatts' Senior Vice President Bob Champagne to gain and share insights regarding the company's DERMs integration and development partnership with mPrest, how it serves as an illustration of broad-based power industry trends and what they portend for the two companies, as well as for US utilities and their customers.

Enhancing Distributed Energy Resource Management

In press releases, mPrest and Innowatts explain that they will “integrate [Innowatts'] customer/behind-the-meter intelligence into mPrest's Grid Modernization 'System of Systems' applications.” From Innowatt's side, that includes customer-level load disaggregation, analytics and forecasting, all of which enable utilities capitalize on their investments in rolling out AMI. 

Those are to be integrated with mPrest's “Grid Modernization 'System of Systems' applications and artificial intelligence (AI) analytics platform, enabling utilities to better predict and manage reliability risk, optimize grid assets and lower costs for customers,” according to an mPrest press release.

“Jointly, we create new opportunities to drive grid efficiency and reliability,” mPrest Chief Commercial Officer Ron Halpern stated. “As demands on our system become more dynamic and unpredictable, having an accurate behind the meter energy forecast at a customer level can be an extremely valuable planning input in state estimation and real time simulation of grid impacts and required responses to operations, topography and other critical decisions; especially, in cases where utilities may have limited visibility beyond the meter.”

Innowatts' SVP, Business Development Bob Champagne had this to say regarding the partnership: “Our vision at Innowatts is to radically transform the energy value chain, using customer level predictive intelligence to enable a new level of learning and automation to the full suite of utility business functions. 

“Augmenting mPrest’s  expertise in grid automation and control, DERMS and Asset Management, with our behind the meter load analytics and actionable intel creates a bold new source of value that will help clients optimize grid assets, lower costs, and improve reliability in ways never before possible.”

A better lens

By and large, utilities, and their customers, still lack the ability to fully capitalize on and realize the benefits of smart meters and AMI equipment and software systems, Champagne told Energy Central. Furthermore, they continue to rely on energy resource planning frameworks and methodology that are rapidly becoming outmoded. 

Lacking the degree of detail and insight into what's happening on the customer-side of the utility meter as utility customers deploy on-site power generation, energy storage and responsive electrical and electronic devices and equipment poses health and safety, as well as operational risks and competitive threats for utilities. It also opens up an expanding vista of new opportunities. 

“They [utilities] are missing the lens they need into customers' energy usage and behavior. Our strength as a business lies in a different breed of customer load disaggregation and predictive analytics, and we have found many ways of re-purposing that data and information,” Champagne said during the interview. 

Innowatts is able to provide utilities with an unprecedented level of detailed, flexible insights into customers' energy consumption, production and behavior, as well as zoom out to provide “bird's eye” views, predictive analytics and decision support in real-time, Champagne continued. 

That opens up opportunities for utilities to craft energy services and pricing and rate plans down to the individual customer level, he highlighted. “You can save enormous amounts of commodity energy costs when you are able see this deeply into customers' energy profiles. You can identify exactly what services or products are best suited to any given customer, exactly when and where maintenance is required or when a customer might benefit by investing in energy improvements – home insulation or even a power strip, for example,” Champagne said.

Our breed of bottoms up load analytics produces energy forecasts that are orders of magnitude more accurate than the top down approaches most utilities rely on today, and have much wider applications across the value chain.

"As much as 80 percent of a customer's bill comes from energy; more specifically, retail energy commodity and customer functions, rather than grid or network-related functions," Champagne elaborated. "The most important driver of commodity costs is risk and uncertainty surrounding consumption levels and likely swings in expected load obligation, which manifests itself in the form of hedging.

"By using our bottoms up forecasting and predictive analytics, Innowatts' supply-side clients have been able to decrease that uncertainty by as much as 40 percent. Those savings on hedging costs from the increased accuracy are passed onto our clients, resulting in improved operating margins and lower bills for their customers."

We explore the value these and other, innovative capabilities Innowatts and mPrest aim to bring to the market in the second installment of this two-part series, soon to be published.

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