Several months ago, Solar Analytics released its latest update, called Plan Optimiser
The stated goals of Plan Optimiser were to “take the guesswork out of saving on energy bills” and “know you’re always on the best energy plan based on your actual solar and household data.” And the stories are now starting to flow from solar owners and solar retailers.
An increasingly common question on social forums is: “My retailer has just told me my feed-in tariff is reducing dramatically – how can I find the best deal for my solar?”
This question is not surprising, given that FIT’s have been steadily reducing for some years, energy rates change with frightening frequency and the number of retail offers available seems to endlessly grow.
The long answer is “search up every retailer that has an offer in your area, download their rates, plug them into a spreadsheet, add your consumption and generation profile and do some calculations.” Nice for nerds. Not so nice for the average solar owner.
Simplifying life for solar retailers
Another answer to the above question I see regularly is “call your solar supplier, they’ll know.” I know for a fact that solar retailers generally solve this in one of two ways.
One, they recommend a retailer they know of who’s generally pretty good and suggest them. This is easy, but exposes solar retailers to complaints if the wrong advice is provided, is unlikely to deliver reliable savings and, of course, changes over time.
Alternatively, they spend countless hours and years building spreadsheets with all the retail offers they can find, regularly updating them and when asked they plug in the customers details and do a custom analysis for their clients. This is an awesome service, but costly and time consuming.
The other issue is that, because plans change so frequently and new offers abound, it is entirely likely that in three or six months’ time the entire exercise will need to be repeated if you want to avoid the dreaded loyalty tax (i.e. if you don’t keep shopping around, your rates will start creeping up).
Solar Analytics’ Plan Optimiser solves this problem by automating the entire process and updating their tariff databases on a monthly basis so that Retailers no longer have to guess, or endlessly maintain complex databases. As an example of the work involved, the October Solar Analytics tariff update included changes to more than 300 tariffs – work that retailers would have traditionally had to do.
Yet another example is a solar retailer who has included Solar Analytics for many years and has a fleet of around a thousand homes monitored. Solar Analytics recently conducted a fleet-wide analysis to see if our pilot test results were playing out.
In our pilot release we found that on average around 70% of users would save on average around $400 per year by switching. In the case of our solar retailer, the results came in showing almost 68% of users would get on average $400 per annum savings – that’s $400,000 of savings, above and beyond their solar savings for just one solar retailer. This was exciting real world proof of the pilot test results.
Solving solar owner problems
In my case, I (now) know that I have no less than 47 different retail deals available to me for my home. I’m drowning in choice, but I’m also time poor and really don’t love excel that much.
I could use a comparison web site of course, but none of them use my actual consumption and generation data in their analysis, many take switching fees introducing bias and I have to upload a whole lot of information every time I do the calculation.
These are the very problems that Solar Analytics set out to address with the launch of Plan Optimiser.
My solar and retail plan is a bit like a mechanic’s car – they suffer from terrible neglect because at the end of my day I’m mentally exhausted solving other solar and retail problems, so I push it aside.
With the benefit of Plan Optimiser, the analysis literally takes the click of just one button. By switching I could save an incredible $375 per quarter. In a typical moment of smart-arse-I-told- you-so behaviour, I predicted I had found a bug, however! The plan that was recommended to me had the lowest FIT in the market at $0.02c.
The product team gleefully responded: “Nige, you’re an idiot. Look at your self-consumption behaviour – you never export! It’s all being soaked up by your Livewire, your batteries, your hot water diverter and self-consumption. A high FiT is not what you need to maximise your savings.”
Damn you, you clever Plan Optimiser!
Another great insight was offered by a typical mature-age solar owner. Nice big solar system that’s quite new, a frugal energy user and lots of time on their hands to dive deep into details – but not so tech savvy. This particular user contacted me and was very concerned that they might not be on the best plan. Over and over again. With a million questions and advice from his friends. Being a pensioner, every penny counts and he loves a chat, so he was polite but a little bit relentless wanting to know the answer to this question.
When Plan Optimiser became available it instantly showed that in fact he was already on the best plan. So, in this case the customer’s mind was put at ease and my phone stopped ringing with questions. Even better, he can re-check on a regular basis to diligently ensure that if things change he will be advised where a better deal is without me having to lift a finger.
I love your calls Dad, but just press the button.
Big data to the rescue
Solar Analytics is also about to release several updates and enhancements to Plan Optimiser which leverage the incredible power of Machine Learning across tens of thousands of users.
The company’s next update will include some very clever new functions that allow users to focus on different time periods or seasons, get “day one estimates” to guide new system owners to the right plan and even modelling tools that enable users without certain monitoring data to use synthesized data to estimate performance and plan advice.
The lesson is that switching retailers isn’t hard.
Understanding which retailer to switch to, and when, is the hard bit. But new services like Plan Optimiser are making the experience pretty simple, really.
Nigel Morris is the head of business development at Solar Analytics and a regular contributor to One Step Off The Grid. He hosts the Great Solar Business Podcast and co-hosts the Solar Insiders Podcast.