The big data behind your energy bill


Businessman Checking DataBig data is one of the hot buzzwords of the moment and the energy industry is no exception, especially when it comes to providing electricity and gas to large corporate customers, says Opus Energy in this sponsored post.

Between buying energy for thousands of customers to tracking reads from hundreds of thousands of meters, there is no shortage of data available to suppliers. Taking all of that data and putting it into a usable format for brokers and customer is the challenge.

Big data on the supply side starts the moment you ask for a quote. Suppliers use complex algorithms built up using years of experience in buying and selling energy help to ensure that you get the best price. They factor in a vast array of start and end dates, potential changes in the price curve and weather forecasts to make sure that they purchase the right amount of energy for their customers at the best price. Being able to correctly use this information is a skillset that comes through industry experience.

Suppliers also use big data to analyse trends and identify anomalies. Stuart Lloyd Evans, director of risk and trading operations at Opus Energy explains, “By analysing the usage patterns for a large number of business customers, we’re able to determine what typical usage looks like, and discover when something isn’t right. It could be as simple as a faulty meter or as complicated as a case of fraud. By identifying these types of problems early on, we’re able to work with the customer to make any needed corrections. This all helps keep energy costs down.”

Suppliers are not the only ones who use big data to keep energy costs in check. Brokers keep an eye on contract end dates and site additions and removals to help ensure their customers don’t accidentally end up on expensive out of contract rates. Given the sheer size of corporate energy portfolios, managing that amount of data is no easy task. More innovative suppliers such as Opus Energy have gone so far as to build bespoke portals to aid brokers in the task. Steve James, director of corporate solutions states, “Brokers can upload their portfolio to our portal, allowing them to request and refresh price quotes at the touch of a button. Once they’ve locked in the right product and price, they can agree contracts and e-sign them, making the process both simple and efficient. We’ve built in key notifications to make sure that critical information doesn’t get lost in the masses. All this helps them avoid going out of contract.”

For the end customer, the pathway to energy management and reduction requires navigating through a sea of usage data. Thanks to the installation of smart meters, customers now have access to more (and more accurate) information than ever before. Unfortunately, getting budget approval to pay someone to come in and analyse it for you might not be easy. Facilities managers often need to do an initial review themselves, and are dependent on their broker or supplier to help them along. James added, “For a SME with a single site and single meter, usage graphs are fairly straight forward. Some of our more complex corporate customers have thousands of sites, each with multiple meters. It is our job as the supplier to provide them with tools that enable them to slice and view this information in the way that is most meaningful to them. This is one of the primary reasons why we’ve built a new online account portal with a bespoke interface for corporate customers, separate from our SME view.”

When selecting a supplier, it is important to look for someone with the right knowledge and experience, who won’t get overwhelmed by the big data involved in the business of supplying energy to corporate customers. A supplier that can manage big data in a sophisticated way will not only be able to understand your energy needs better, but they can also save money with more accurate predictions of energy market fluctuations – looking after your business portfolio in the long run. As we move into the area of demand management, accessing and utilising big data will only become more important.

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