Over 400 Port Hedland residents and businesses have commenced Horizon Power’s Power Ahead research pilot this week – actively engaging with the utility to shape the future of electricity pricing.
The pilot, which is a first in Australia, will allow participants to work collaboratively with Horizon Power to develop a new way of charging for electricity, with elements similar to a mobile phone plan that the utility hopes may be offered to all customers in the future.
Horizon Power Managing Director Frank Tudor said customer research had been carried out recently by the organisation to gain a better understanding of electricity usage patterns and the changes customers would like to see.
“Over 90 per cent of participants believed it would be helpful having access to their electricity usage data in near real time to help them take more control over their electricity use,” Mr Tudor said.
When asked how helpful it would be to know a large proportion of their annual electricity bill in advance and have it spread evenly across the year, over 70 per cent of participants favoured this approach.
“Our research has shown our customers support changes which will empower them to have more control over their electricity bills and through this pilot we aim to develop a model that enables them to take this control,” Mr Tudor said.
In the long term, Horizon Power hopes to offer this pricing model in the form of ‘Power Plans’ to all customers. Similar to mobile phone plans, these plans provide a peak allowance limit with a cost per week plus a cheaper per unit cost for electricity use.
The idea behind the “Power Plans” is that customers will be rewarded with discounts for staying on plan. For example a residential customer could earn a $300 discount each year and larger businesses up to $1500 each year if they stay within their peak allowance limits.
“Customers will not be paying different rates during on peak or off peak, instead they will be able to choose an electricity plan just like they choose a mobile plan to meet their peak usage requirements,” Mr Tudor said.
“This will give our customers much more control and management of their power bills as they will know how much they pay each month through the plan.”
In the Pilot, participants have individual electricity allowances set by Horizon Power that they must stay within during the peak period (between 1pm and 8pm each day) in order to earn financial incentives. The research pilot commenced with a practice month in December where participants could learn to use the app and not lose any financial incentive before going live on 4 January 2017.
Horizon Power Project Director Scott Davis said December’s practice month showed some interesting insights into how people could alter their electricity use to stay under their peak allowance.
“We provided all participants with a practice month in December to allow them to see the effects different appliances had on their electricity use,” Mr Davis said.
“We are already seeing a willingness and ability to create new on-peak/off-peak routines that customers are saying are sustainable over the long-term,” Mr Davis said.
Pilot participant Kelly-Anne Insull said she had made a lot of changes to the way her family used power to try and spread out her usage over a longer period.
“I used to do my washing while I was cooking dinner but now I do it at 8pm after the peak is over,” Ms Insull said. “I found out the wall air conditioners use a lot of power so I turned them off in the kids’ rooms and make them all sit in the lounge room to share the big split system.”
The pilot is made possible through the installation of advanced metering technology, funded by the State Government, across Horizon Power’s service area last year. This technology allows the utility to track electricity in real-time and feedback consumption to the customer every 15 minutes.
Horizon Power has specifically created a free Power Ahead app to assist participants earn their incentive. The app shows their electricity use and provides personalised energy efficiency tips to help participants take more control. The app also sends alerts and notifications throughout the peak period to help participants stay within their consumption allowance.
Through an interactive Facebook forum and individual customer interviews, Horizon Power has already been able to respond to customers’ requests for a modification to the app – providing participants with historical data through a graph showing electricity use for the previous seven days.
“I’ve made a lot of changes and looking at the graph I can see that they’re working and it’s really great to know that what you’re doing works,” Ms Insull said.
This research, and the input coming back from participants, will help Horizon Power to refine its proposed pricing plans to meet customer needs for possible future implementation across the board.
Horizon Power gifts PV and battery system to local business
Galvins Plumbing Supplies Manager Stuart Ramsay was thrilled to hear the business had been selected as the winner of a PV system with battery storage, courtesy of Horizon Power, for taking part in the Power Ahead research pilot.
The system was offered as an incentive for businesses to sign-up for the Power Ahead research project. To go in the running, local businesses had to apply to participate before the end of September.
Project Director Scott Davis said the Solar PV system will help Horizon Power understand how customers can use available technologies to reduce their electricity bills and Horizon Power’s costs.
“As part of the Power Ahead research, the system has been provided to get a better understanding of the savings a customer with PV and battery could make under our proposed new way of charging,” Mr Davis said. “We are working collaboratively with Mr Ramsay to research the effects new technology has on power bills.”
Mr Ramsay said the prize would be very beneficial for the business due to the design of the work shed and couldn’t be happier with his prize.
‘The shed was built without sky lights to keep the heat entering down, leaving no choice but to run high bay lights so having a chance and winning the system is a tremendous bonus to reduce our power bills,” he said.
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· Power Ahead is a research pilot running in Port Hedland from 1 December 2016 to 31 March 2017.
· Horizon Power are co-designing a new product with customers based on the results of the research.
· 356 residential premises and 63 business premises are taking part in the pilot.
· Financial incentives of up to $1,100 (residents) and $3,200 (businesses) are on offer to participants who can keep their electricity use under an allowance allocated by Horizon Power between 1 pm and 8 pm.
· Participation in the pilot is voluntary and no participant can be worse-off by taking part.
· All participants must pay their usual Horizon Power bills throughout the pilot.
· Participants on the pilot are contributing to the design of a new pricing product.
· A decision to implement the proposed new pricing product will be made by the State Government.
· This research pilot is possible as Horizon Power is a vertically integrated utility.