Home Energy Monitoring Pilot Helps Utility Customers Cut Energy Use 7%

bidgelyIf you already ran an energy-efficient household — yet suddenly discovered how much energy your computer, lights and stove used throughout the day — would you use the information to lower your energy bill even further?

You just might, according to results from a pilot study that compared the energy consumption of San Francisco Bay Area residents before and after enrolling in an energy disaggregation service connected to their home’s smart meter.

The study — administered by PG&E last fall and winter among 850 customers who were already enrolled in time-of-use pricing (which charges lower rates during non-peak energy use periods) — set up participants for over 4 months after using a home energy monitor from Bidgely, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based energy efficiency startup. Participants were given instructions on how to monitor their disaggregated energy use using Bidgely’s mobile and web platform.

And the results? Participants saved an average of 7.7% more energy than before they enrolled in the study, according to the utility and startup. Bidgely’s real-time energy use monitoring and its service that advises enrollees on how to further reduce energy consumption were not available to study participants, according to Bidgely spokesperson Steve Nguyen.

“The folks that they chose were already highly energy-efficient people [as they are] Time of Use customers and smart meter customers,” Nguyen said. “They were people who were already motivated to save working with PG&E.”

Nguyen admits that choosing participants who were already enrolled in PG&E’s time of use pricing program could have biased the results. Yet he said that because the study period was so short, the utility targeted this group to ensure that it was able to enroll participants in the study fairly quickly.

One interesting finding was that instead of cutting more of their energy consumption during peak use periods, the average participant achieved their energy savings by cutting from the non-peak periods.

“This was a big deal because we assumed they’d lower use during the peak periods,” Nguyen said. “It’s quite the opposite of what we expected from the pilot.”

While Bidgely believes this result is something that needs further investigation, Nguyen says that he thinks it could be because the participants were already as energy efficient as they were willing to be during peak hours.

“Like a diet, there’s only so much you can do before it becomes burdensome,” he said.

The four-year-old company — whose name means “electricity” in Hindi — currently is in the midst of gathering more information about its products via a dozen more utility pilots it’s eight different countries around the world spanning the U.S., Europe and Australia.

Currently, its service is available for customers at two utilities: the Dallas, Tex.-based TXU Energy and London Hydro serving the city of London, Ontario — which together reaches 1.5 million households. Later this year, Bidgely will start work on a project with Hawaii utilities, though Nguyen declined to give additional details.

And on the software side? The company will be focusing on their real-time capabilities that will notify a customer when it experiences an energy spike that may occur if the stove was left on, for example, according to Nguyen.

“We’ll be focusing on making sure that the lessons learned from the PG&E pilot are rolled into the mobile ‘push’ side … so they can identify different types of anomalies quickly and tie it into their use habits,” he said.

Kristine Wong
Author: Kristine Wong

Kristine Wong is a multimedia journalist who reports on energy, the environment, sustainable business, and food. Her work has been featured in The Guardian (UK / US), The Huffington Post, GreenBiz, and other publications. Before becoming a journalist, she worked in community-based environmental and public health organizations for more than 10 years as a researcher and community organizer. She has degrees in natural resources and journalism from U.C. Berkeley and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Washington. Follow her on Twitter @wongkxt.

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