July 11, 2016 - A new paper entitled “Transforming Energy Management in Canada” aims to “[elevate] the capture, comprehension and usefulness of utility billing data for all Canadian customers”.
By Anthony Capkun
A group called Utility Billing Data Access Working Group (UBDAWG) published the paper (download PDF below) in an effort to address the energy management challenge of timely access to utility billing data. Without it, claim the authors, businesses cannot operate “as efficiently or effectively as necessary to achieve energy management and greenhouse gas emission savings”.
Currently, processes for capturing billing data and benchmarking performance are difficult, error-prone and expensive, says UBDAWG, adding “the expense and inaccuracy of current data capture processes—coupled with a general lack of understanding of how to utilize utility bill information to guide sound business decisions—are substantial barriers to effective energy management in Canada”.
UBDAWG was established in 2014 to identify and evaluate potential solutions to these billing issues among multi-site utility customers. Utility representatives, energy market analysts, technical experts, billing data processing stakeholders and end users were convened and consulted throughout 2015 to:
• expose the utility data tracking problem faced by multi-site organizations;
• identify the benefits of a standard data protocol to deliver bill information to customers and the utility industry;
• establish implementation criteria, such as easy adoption, open-source and compatible with widely used programs, tools and software packages in today’s marketplace; and
• complete strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT, page 10) analysis of current methods for customers to easily capture and input critical data from their utility bill, and evaluate their applicability and functionality as solutions.
UBDAWG analyzed six potential solutions in this paper:
• Electronic billing
• Utility website portals
• Barcode/QR Code/IQR Code
• Green Button
• Electronic data interchange (EDI)
• Optical character recognition (OCR)
The group feels any of these six potential solutions could provide the end customer with an improved ability to capture and input essential data from their utility bills. That said, UBDAWG is not recommending any one particular solution over another, but encourages readers to use the report’s findings to continue a dialogue in support of the identification and implementation of a standard.
UBDAWG also believes there need to be changes on a number of fronts to resolve the problem. Specifically, government and regulators need to provide the necessary frameworks; utilities need to better understand and meet their customers’ data needs; customers need to demand improved access to data—and, having gained that access, make use of the information to improve energy performance.
UBDAWG participants for this paper (Appendix A) included representatives from:
• 360 Energy Inc.
• BC Hydro
• County of Simcoe
• London Hydro
• NRG Matters Corp.
• Samuel, Son & Co. Ltd.
• TG Tyler Consulting
• University of Northern British Columbia