Last week, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) approved a settlement agreement regarding improvements to the Smart Meter Texas (SMT) portal, with a diverse group of stakeholders, including Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance (TAEBA) signing on to the agreement.
These changes will make it easier for customers in much of Texas to have advanced energy companies provide services such as energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation, and other energy-related software products and services – and fulfill the promise of smart meters, and the granular data they generate.
Historically, Texas has been at the vanguard of electricity market competition. It was also, in 2008, one of the first states to deploy advanced meters, with the Smart Meter Texas portal being a feature unique to Texas. Smart Meter Texas (SMT) is a meter data access portal established by and jointly managed by the ERCOT region transmission and distribution utilities (CenterPoint, Oncor, AEP, and Texas-New Mexico Power Co.) in conjunction with advanced meter deployment to allow customers to access their energy data.
The SMT portal provides a way for customers to download and view their own energy data or share it with advanced energy companies who can help interpret the data and suggest actions to save money. Although SMT was innovative, as the first data portal of its kind in the United States, some aspects of its implementation resulted in the portal being overly complicated and cumbersome for customers. Thus, most customers have not taken advantage of the system.
As industry representative for advanced energy companies doing business in Texas, TAEBA’s main objective in participating in this case was to simplify the process for customers to be able to share their data with their chosen providers by 1) making it an option, rather than a requirement, to set up a separate account on SMT, and 2) reducing the number of steps customers needed to take to complete the data-sharing process.
The existing process is not consistent with the “one-click” experience today’s customers are accustomed to in other service industries. The settlement makes account creation optional for customers and turns the customer permission process into a one-click email confirmation.
The settlement also includes a provision requiring that the application programming interface (API) data format and API specification used by SMT comply with the nationally recognized Green Button standard format. Standardization lowers barriers to market development and brings additional value to customers.
Today’s consumers expect personalized service experiences – think of health and fitness monitors, financial planning apps, or music streaming services. The same is true of energy. Advanced energy companies can help customers realize the hidden value of their energy consumption data that they may not recognize on their own. These energy experts are able to deliver customized products and services based on energy usage patterns to unlock the value of the energy data asset that the customer owns and controls. For example:
- Customers can get paid to reduce energy consumption in periods of high demand on the grid (demand response). Those customer savings can be used for other spending in the household or business.
- Customers can engage a service provider to analyze their energy consumption data remotely, and get recommendations for how to change their usage to save on their monthly bills (remote energy audits). A remote energy audit can reveal, for example, whether the customer has faulty equipment or a particular appliance that is a real energy hog.
- Business customers with multiple facilities can compare building performance and manage energy consumption and demand across the portfolio of buildings to reduce energy expenditures.
For almost two decades, the Texas electric market has been transitioning to a new advanced energy ecosystem in which customers have a variety of service options, including the ability to select multiple competitive service providers for energy efficiency, distributed generation, demand response, energy storage, and electric vehicles.
With this decision to improve SMT to facilitate customer access to advanced energy, Texas is taking an important step to continue modernizing its competitive electricity system so that customers can reap the full value of the investment made in advanced metering.
This is a guest post by Suzanne L. Bertin, Executive Director, Texas Advanced Energy Business Alliance, an AEE state partner. To learn more about TAEBA, click here. To learn more about AEE’s nationwide coalition of state and regional partners, click here.
Access to Data: Bringing the Electricity Grid into the Information Age is one of six regulatory issue briefs published by AEE and available for download.