I’m part of a team at Centrica working to build the energy system of the future. A future that I believe is going to be greener, more flexible and more customer controlled than the one we have been living with for the last 150 years.
This week, me and a number of the Centrica team joined the Bloomberg EMEA Future of Energy Summit as an industry partner. As well as taking part in a number of discussions, the showpiece for our involvement was an introduction to Panoramic Power – a new product for us in the UK that offers businesses large and small the opportunity to gain insights into their energy use through a unique combination of wireless sensor technology and cloud-based analytics.
We bought Panoramic Power last year, building on an exclusive partnership in the US that has been in place since 2014. The team now forms part of our new Distributed Energy & Power business, which we’ve set up to help businesses and other large energy users to take control of their energy by giving them the power to operate, monitor and optimise their energy assets.
The Panoramic solution brings transparency and visibility to energy usage with real-time measurement of individual electrical devices and machinery. What that means in practice is the installation of sensors no bigger than your average soft drink cap. Equipped with a simple bar code to help identify them, the sensors literally ‘snap and fit’ onto electrical cables and then connect to a system that compiles all the data into one user-friendly platform. It’s super cheap to install and gives a business insight into its operations quickly with one customer I know of set to save almost £1m a year across their 60 retail stores.
To bring the technology to life for people at the summit, we installed 15 sensors across a range of kit including lighting, air conditioning and kitchen equipment. The install took just an hour and the Panoramic team was quickly able to identify a number of opportunities for the facilities team to save energy (and money!) and spot technical issues with their devices.
But it needn’t stop at energy saving. Speaking in one of the plenary sessions, the MD of our British Gas Business, Gab Barbaro, challenged businesses to use the energy insights that we can offer through Panoramic Power to help them make decisions about where and how to deploy distributed energy technologies themselves. He estimated that British businesses are currently spending around £20bn a year on energy and that there was a potential saving of some £2 – 4bn to be made through distributed energy – a potentially huge prize.
What I think that looks like for the customer depends very much on what sector they’re in. For many the journey starts with energy saving through energy efficiency but we’re working on propositions to help them go further: using their existing assets like back-up generators or flexible load (equipment you can turn on, off, up and down) to actually make them money, or helping them to install new kit so they can generate and store their own energy cleanly, efficiently and reliably.
So what does this all mean? It’s a brave new energy world for us and our customers. Digital analytics, the internet of things, new technology and innovation, all coming together to help turn energy from a risk into a source of sustainable competitive advantage. For everyone.
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