UK Moving Toward Smart Meters With US-based OPower

Smart Grid software company OPower signed a partnership agreement that will introduce the company to the UK market in a big way.

Opower will provide home energy management software to First Utility customers, the UK’s largest independent domestic energy company.

It will be Opower’s first expansion outside the US, and it will be the first program of its kind in the UK, aimed at helping customers find ways to save on their power bills.

The Opower program was highlighted in the "Behavior Change and Energy Use Report," issued this week by UK Prime Minister Cameron’s Behavioral Insights team and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The report outlines steps the government is taking to work with the private sector to address the country’s energy challenges, including promoting a series of policies to alleviate rising energy prices for consumers, insulating residential homes, and reducing emissions to address climate change.

A central feature of the government’s strategy is to deploy Smart Meters to every household by 2019, which would allow for deployment of innovative energy management programs like Opower.

First Utility, the only UK energy company to offer smart meters to all its customers, will use the Opower software platform to translate its customers’ smart meter data into energy-saving tools, including reports that offer comparative consumption information and household-specific analysis of consumption patterns, access to an online portal with detailed usage information, and high bill alerts designed to help customers avoid excessive bills while they still have time to change their usage.

They plan to engage customers via mailed reports, a web portal, email and SMS messages, as well as social media.

"This multi-channel engagement approach is designed to reach all demographic segments, regardless of age, income or access to technology, and drive a high level of customer engagement and energy savings," the companies say in a release.

OPower and First Utility will work in consultation with the Behavioral Insights Team in the Cabinet Office and DECC to assess the program’s impact and to inform future smart meter policy. Energy savings from the program will be measured and verified independently by academics in the UK, using the data from smart meters.

OPower says it has grown from 60 employees to more than 200 since March 2010, when President Obama visited its offices in Arlington, Virginia.

In the US, OPower says it’s working with 60 utilities and reaching 10 million households. Deployments include smart grid programs with Baltimore Gas & Electric’s and AEP Ohio.

In November 2010, OPower raised $50 million from Accel Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, among others.

Although the EU is far ahead of the US in most areas of renewable energy, it has been slow to adopt demand response and other energy management systems. The US still holds the world’s top position in this emerging industry.

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