- Energy management company Tendril announced last week it has acquired energy analytics provider EEme, adding nonintrusive load monitoring capabilities to its data analytics platform.
- EEme's model uses a set of algorithms that follow patterns in the data from meter readings. Combined with Tendril's existing Home Energy Management platform, the technology could identify new EV owners and recommend a time-of-use rate. It could also identify cyclical loads in a home and degradation over time of systems that use a large amount of energy, such as HVAC systems.
- One of Tendril's key goals remains smoothing the load to reflect the supply of energy, without customers noticing. This includes using their continuous load management capability and growing active utilization of energy at a time when there are a lot of renewables supplying power to the grid.
With smart meter programs increasingly popping up around the country, Tendril is working to use data based on customers' energy usage in order to offer more targeted efficiency recommendations.
The company's Home Energy Reports is configurable per utility and per type of customer. For instance, renters would not be prompted by the platform to make big, costly upgrades, according to Adrian Tuck, Tendril's CEO.
"We have what we think is the most comprehensive database of all the 140 million homes in North America, and the people who live in them, that exists today in the U.S. related to energy," Tuck told Utility Dive.
Utilities can use Tendril's platform to identify potential reductions in energy use during peak demand times to address the load problem. By giving smart technology to customers who are identified as contributing to the duck curve and allowing Tendril software to control that, the energy management platform can "reprogram every thermostat every night to move energy outside of the duck curve without the customer even noticing," Tuck said.
The curve denotes a pattern of energy supply by non-renewable sources, which dips in the morning and afternoon in areas with a lot of solar energy, but can rise quickly as the sun goes down and energy demand peaks.
While 75% of Tendril's customers do not have smart meters, Tuck said the systematic deployment of technology like smart thermostats can be effective in flattening a utility's duck curve.
Shifting energy usage would be more cost effective than putting a lot of batteries in place, Tuck said. "No one wants to really spend a lot of time thinking hard about moving their load around during the day in order to save money."
In that regard, time-of-use rates being crafted throughout the country can overcomplicate billing for a consumer, Tuck said, calling it a way for utilities to shift their duck curve problem onto the consumer.
"We would argue that using price as a signal for consumers is a bad idea. Using cost as a signal for smart systems is a very good idea," Tuck said.
But pricing, which may come in a variety of rate structures, is necessary to back up the value proposition of energy efficiency programs like Tendril's, Lon Huber, a director at energy consulting firm Navigant told Utility Dive.
"With the time intervals, it's key that you can isolate certain things, but at the end of the day, you need some type of pricing structure that makes sense, and then have action on that data," Huber said.
Arriving at the economic pricing is still a large aspect of having a rate structure, such as demand-based tariffs, time-of-use rates or subscription rates.
"You can do everything that we're talking about, reducing peak demand, all that stuff, but the thing is — do you shield the customer from it or do you expose the customer?" Huber said.
Rate structures can hybridize several concepts, to ensure customers don't receive overly complex rates by allowing the utility to shield them by "doing all the complex stuff behind the scenes," Huber said. That is what Liberty Utilities did with their battery storage pilot proposal in New Hampshire, Huber said, deploying utility-controlled Tesla Powerwall systems to lower peak demand on the entire grid while asking customers to pay for their system upfront or over the next decade.