TPI Inenco recently claimed that UK firms are owed £500m due to billing errors, and that only one in five businesses validate their bills. Junifer Systems’ Paul Fitzgerald suggests sheer complexity of data may be to blame, both in terms of the number of parties in the energy data supply chain, and the nature of multisite business operations.
“You might have a combination of half hourly (HH) and non half hourly (NHH) meters, with different pricing structures and different mechanisms to receive the data. So you can understand why commercial customers are not always able to analyse their bills and understand exactly how the energy is consumed,” he says.
Equally, he claims many billing systems are not able to handle the increasing volumes of data that make up the bill, thereby reliant on third party systems, creating another link in an already complex chain, increasing the potential for error.
Fitzgerald says Junifer, which came from the telco industry, was set up to address that issue. It describes itself as a ‘smart billing’ company.
“What we are trying to do is create a single location for customer and energy-centric data that enables that interrogation, so [suppliers] can pull the data out and show customers, enabling them to do some proper bill analysis.”
Fitzgerald thinks P272 and HH metering and settlement more broadly will enable customers to better understand consumption, and use the data both to validate bills and find contracts and prices that best suit their profiles.
With around 160,000 business migrated onto half hourly metering and settlement under P272, there is also potential for more firms to provide demand-side response (DSR). Fitzgerald says that presents even more challenges to the parties that manage industry data and process.
“There are lots of issues around DSR and how it will operate,” he says. ”But key to a lot of incoming changes is the consumer first understanding their energy consumption on an hourly, daily, weekly and yearly basis. You just can’t do that with a dumb meter.
“Once you have that understanding, you can work out how to manipulate data to the best effect, work out what assets you can better utilise and perhaps invest in some onsite generation. I think that is what needs to happen.”
TV companies as the next energy suppliers?
Talk of telcos and media companies bundling energy supply is nothing new. Economist Dieter Helm raises the spectre of Amazon and others entering the energy retail market in his latest comments on industry developments. Consultancies have been talking about it for at least a decade. But Fitzgerald, from a telco background, believes it’s not far off.
“I definitely think it will be a multi utility environment in the next 5-10 years,” he says.
“Sky offering TV, broadband, telephony – energy is a natural progression for companies like that. BT, perhaps Vodafone, could start offering some kind of utility product. Telcos many years ago moved from a single product and that is the nature of how things progress. I can see the same thing happening in energy.”
A version of this article appears in the April/May print issue of The Energyst. You can subscribe here for free.