In yesterday’s blog post we explored Smart Meters and Net Metering in some detail (check it out, here: https://suntexllc.com/energy-components-electrical-components-smart-meters-net-metering-and-data-monitoring-what-do-they-all-have-in-common/), however today we’ll get to the heart of why any of this should matter to you. Of course, even if you’re not a data scientist, it doesn’t hurt to explore your curiosity in energy consumption to determine how your energy consumption currently looks and ways to improve upon it and ideally, reduce it.
Sometimes you need more energy (for example, during the holidays when you’re cooking a feast and need to power your electric stove a little longer) and you shouldn’t hold yourself hostage to a certain number of kWh per month. However having a good understanding of your energy data can help you improve your bottom line in numerous ways!
Now for my favorite piece of the energy management puzzle: Data Monitoring. While the “what is it?” question may be a little more intuitive to answer for data monitoring, there are a few other questions worth exploring here, such as: “Who has access?” and/or “What are they monitoring?” and perhaps most importantly, “How are they using it?”
Let’s explore these questions one-by-one:
Who has access to energy data?
Typically your Retail Energy Provider (REP) needs access to your energy data for the very obvious reason of calculating how much to bill you each month for your energy usage. However, what might be less obvious but no less common, is that your REP will also send your data to the Electric Grid (managed by ERCOT, in Texas – for a very detailed look at the data ERCOT monitors, check out the Hourly Load Data archives here: https://www.ercot.com/gridinfo/load/load_hist), so that they’re able to forecast how much energy will be needed from the grid at any given time.
Ideally, this would also allow them to forecast additional energy needs from the grid during an emergency, however in Texas we know this isn’t always the case, or at least if they’re able to predict it, ERCOT still might not do anything to avoid energy outages (see an in-depth look at this problem in our prior blog post, here: https://suntexllc.com/texas-senate-following-the-bills-where-are-we-now/).
Beyond these two governing bodies, and particularly if you produce renewable energy on your property, it’s likely that your energy is shared with a third party monitor, such as the solar or wind energy company that installed your system. We’ll get into the nuts and volts of why they monitor your data in the paragraphs below, but it is a good practice to set this up as soon as your system is installed so that if there is any issue in energy production, they’re able to see it and fix it before you get your next energy bill.
What are these energy monitors looking for; and how are they using my data?
While we briefly discussed the answer to this question above, it really depends on whom is doing the monitoring. For example, your energy company will use your energy data in order to bill you for the electric service they provide each month, however what if you have 100% solar offset on your bill, and thus your energy bill is $0 (or close to it)?
Even when your energy bill is offset by renewables, your REP still monitors your monthly consumption and production, and in some cases will also still charge a Grid connection or Transmission fee (so that they’re able to pay for services needed to make sure you’re able to remain connected to the grid).
While I don’t love the idea of paying for something I don’t use, it’s certainly helpful in the winter months or during a rainy week to remain connected to the grid since your solar panels won’t likely produce enough electricity on those days to completely offset your usage, and I certainly don’t want to pay for the total cost of running my own transmission lines to the local power plant!
Our energy grid consists of lots of moving parts. These moving parts must coordinate succinctly in order to function properly, and at a very basic level, ensure that there is enough energy production to meet the energy consumption demand in the marketplace. When they’re not failing miserably at this, which in all fairness is a majority of the time, ERCOT monitors your energy data in order to maintain Grid power and avoid grid failures. What does this look like? Check out their website to learn more about exactly what ERCOT does, and how it helps regulate the energy market in Texas:
This leaves third party monitors. During my time in the solar energy industry, I’ve had the opportunity to see how this is done first hand, and I can safely say that energy monitoring has drastically improved over the years! Irig would imagine at some point in the past 150 years since public electricity was implemented, particularly since this came before computers were invented, there was some log book of energy consumption and energy production that power plants used to regulate energy distribution in their respective service areas.
Since then however, and in just a few short years, with the invention of computers, smart meters, and smart inverters, energy monitoring has gone from excel spreadsheets to master databases with rigorous privacy regulation.
In order to collect your energy data, third party monitors must obtain your permission, however it’s often in your best interest to grant it. I recognize that working for SUNTEX I may have some bias here, so don’t take my word for it, check out the following links to learn more about why sharing your energy data may be beneficial to you:
Of course, if you decide to go off grid with an energy system, generator, and battery storage option, you can avoid sharing your energy data with anyone, even though it will likely still be accessible online for your periodic review. While some energy monitoring devices are more precise than others, you’re typically looking for the following:
- Annual consumption: how does the energy consumption for my home stack up against other homes of the same size? Could I save money by offsetting some of that consumption with renewable energy sources?
- Monthly consumption: how does this stack up month-to-month and why? For example, in Texas we use a lot of air-conditioning in the summer months, so it seems likely that energy consumption during these months would be higher.
- Hourly consumption: particularly if your Retail Energy Provider (REP) uses peak-hour pricing for your electricity bill, you might analyze your hourly consumption in order to determine whether or not you’re using energy in your home most efficiently, or whether this could be improved. For example, check out the Austin Energy electricity fee schedule here (keep in mind that your REP likely has something similar, so be sure to search “[REP name] + peak hours” if you’re curious to see what this looks like in your area): https://austinenergy.com/wcm/connect/1a559c04-2286-4e22-bd16-1cde50aff0ff/COA-RatesAndFees-FY22.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CVID=nPpTOmF.
While we’re always happy to help if you have any questions about this process, or how to analyze the energy usage in your home, we are experts in this particular field! So give us a call for a free energy consultation, and even if you don’t go solar, we’re eager to teach home owners how to read their energy bill and manage their energy consumption. Give us a call today!