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What does the future hold? It’s in the data

10 February 2020

For energy companies, predicting the future is invaluable.

Recently Jemena stepped up its digital journey by looking at new ways to use data and analytics across our business. Long gone are the days of thinking of digital as something that goes hand-in-hand with technology, today it’s a whole-of-business approach that can have far reaching benefits on everything from customer experience to maintaining our poles and wires.

To embed a digital mindset we ran learning sessions and workshops with our senior leaders and teams across the business. This helped them to understand the potential future uses of Machine Learning, 3D printing and augmented reality among other exciting developments.

When looking at our data one question we asked was, ‘how can we predict the future to plan our electricity network for the next five, ten and even 20 years?’

Here’s what we learned:

We can predict faults on the network before they happen

Many people get their car serviced every 12 months because after 12 months it’s likely that something will go wrong. But time is only one factor. There are many other factors that determine when a problem will occur.

We can use our data to understand all the reasons why a fault might occur on our electricity network, such as usage rates and weather conditions, to develop a more accurate prediction of when to replace and perform maintenance on our assets. This not only reduces the number of faults on our poles, wires and other infrastructure, it also saves money as we can manage our maintenance schedule more efficiently.

We can prepare the network for future solar installations

As more homes and businesses install rooftop solar, the electricity network needs to adapt to allow more power to feed back into the grid.

If one or two houses in a street install solar there is minimal impact on the grid. But when half the residents on one street install solar, this may cause network issues that impact how the grid handles the extra energy being fed back into it. This requires Jemena to perform work or install specific technology in that area to allow all the rooftop solar to feed seamlessly back into the grid.

Analysing smart meter data can help us proactively prepare the network before the installations happen.

We can better understand how customers use energy

Our customers have different needs when it comes to their energy use. Regardless of when and how customers use energy, all of them want to save money on their electricity bills.

We can provide our customers with their smart meter data along with tips to save energy during peak times to help keep their electricity costs down, particularly in the warmer months when energy use peaks.

This work stems from our initiative ‘Unlocking benefits of smart metering’ which won an Asian Power Award in 2019.

During our People’s Panel sessions held with a cross-section of our electricity customers, customers told us they wanted more control over their energy use and more personalised communications. As part of this work over 210,000 (60%) of our customers are now being notified by SMS if there is an unplanned outage in their area.

We are also partnering with groups such as Energy Consumers Australia, Australian Energy Foundation, Amazon Web Services and People’s Panel participants to understand more about what our customers want and how we can use our data to meet their needs.

We can automate processes to improve customer experience

We are also using data to automate customer-facing systems. A residential customer who calls their retailer to have their electricity connected at a new home can now be connected in a matter of minutes once the retailer submits the request to Jemena. In the past many customers had to wait until the next business day. We worked with EnergyAustralia on this industry-leading trial as part of the Energy Charter initiative to improve customer outcomes by driving collaboration across the energy sector.  

For our commercial customers, the time it takes for a customer to get a response when they submit a customer initiated construction request, such as a request to move an electricity pole, has been reduced from 10 days to around 10 seconds.

We have only just started unlocking the benefits data and analytics can have on our network. With all this information at our fingertips we are well on the way to forecasting what the future looks like well before it happens.

Cameron Dorse
Chief Digital Officer
Jemena