- Oracle Utilities announced last Monday that their Opower Energy Efficiency programs have led households to save a cumulative 20 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy internationally, after entering the market in 2008.
- In the last two years alone, the Energy Efficiency programs led to 9 TWh of savings, according to the company. The growth in savings comes from new customers and from expansions within existing customer accounts, through additional communications like high bill alerts, to "drive incremental savings on top of the home energy report program," Julia Lundin, director of product marketing and strategy at Oracle Utilities, said.
- Earlier this year, Oracle was deemed as the top energy efficiency savings platform in the country, according to energy industry consulting firm Navigant, which has consistently ranked Opower as a leader in the sector. The company boasts that its products have led to seven times the energy savings of the second ranking home energy savings company, Tendril, which said in May that it had saved consumers 2.7 TWh.
Customer behavior solutions such as the Opower programs are attractive because they can be scaled quickly across utilities, and the platforms offer tips and suggestions that can be cheap to implement for renters and lower income households.
"One of the areas where we faced the most skepticism before people really understand what we were doing is they felt like it was, for lack of a better word, almost 'squishy,' and it'd be hard to really gauge and verify the extent of the savings delivered by a behavioral program," Scott Neuman, group vice president of Oracle and former sales vice president of Opower, told Utility Dive.
In order to be "best in class" for tracking the savings that result from its platform, Neuman said Opower uses randomized control trials, through which "you can clearly and specifically isolate the savings impact attributable to the receipt of the home energy report program." The new 20 TWh milestone is derived from the savings of customers from utilities around the world, including Exelon and National Grid.
Opower, which Oracle Utilities acquired in 2016, pioneered the home energy report, which Navigant research analyst Paige Leuschner described as a "fairly straightforward, cost effective and reliable means to achieving energy savings." The platform gives data to the utility's end user about their energy usage, along with suggestions to adjust their behavior to lower bills. Oracle also offers other programs, including peak management and other options that can be integrated with advanced metering infrastructure.
"Opower is doing full deployments at scale with about 100 utility customers, which has clearly led to some impressive savings results," Leuschner, who co-authored Navigant's 2018 Q2 home energy leadership report, told Utility Dive via email. However, she said the competitive landscape has advanced a lot since then, as a "slew of offerings makes it harder for any one company to own the [home energy report] market."
"While utilities are currently looking for reliable, proven savings, they are also thinking about the future and are interested in working with vendors that better integrate demand-side management initiatives, offer more innovative solutions, and ultimately have a more significant impact," Leuschner said.
Demand response programs typically require a load control device in a home, such as a thermostat, which customers can control, explained Lundin. The potential of demand response may be very high, but "the realized potential of that right now is very low," she told Utility Dive.
"We see behavioral programs being able to make up that gap in being a scalable and cost effective solution to that problem just as we've done with energy efficiency," Lundin said.