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Published on: 30/07/2019

THE SYNERGY ALPHA IN SINGAPORE

With over 81% of Singapore’s population living in government flats, how many of us can access renewable energy from the comforts of our home? Experiencing 50% more solar radiation than temperate countries, the choice of renewable energy here is solar energy. In this article, we will explore the learnings from Synergy Alpha, stage one of our peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading platform.

Synergy Alpha is the closed and limited version of Synergy, our P2P energy trading platform connecting a network of solar PV systems to energy users through the main grid. The Alpha featured a total of 15 sites—12 consumers and 3 prosumers—and showcased the user experience from initial account creation up to billing.

Why Singapore for Synergy Alpha?

Since 2001, Singapore’s electricity sector has been deregulated in phases. As of 1 May 2019, our Open Electricity Market has been in full swing. Combine with our favourable market structure and robust regulatory environment, new opportunities are presented for greater competition, innovation, and incentives. These factors form the making of an ideal market for the deployment of P2P energy trading on the island state.

Also, ELECTRIFY possesses a comparative advantage in this market with Electrify.SG, our existing retail electricity marketplace business, which is complemented by the technical and domain expertise of its core team. Founders, Julius Tan and Martin Lim, are veterans in Singapore’s retail electricity sector. Together, they have built a strong team that includes experienced IT and blockchain developers, energy researchers, and electricity market advisors.

Benefits

Synergy, in its fully realised form, will enable prosumers to earn stable revenue from their excess electricity. On the other hand, consumers will be offered a more extensive selection of energy options at fairer prices. Additionally, by equipping households and businesses with the means to select and track the generation source of their power, consumers of Synergy will be empowered to understand and interact with their energy supply in new, innovative ways. Finally, Synergy will smoothen imbalances created by fluctuating supply/demand with its portfolio balancing and network effects.

Success Criteria – Synergy Alpha

The success criteria for this test were:
– Onboard at least 3 prosumers and 10 consumers onto the Synergy platform
– Demonstrate P2P energy trading capabilities between prosumers and consumers
– Enable prosumers and consumers to access customisable dashboards to view their production, consumption, and energy supply plans

Methodology

The Synergy Alpha was carried out in two phases: functional and usability testing. In the functional stage, we sought to create the client- and server-side scripts that would integrate PowerPod, our IoT gateway. Through this gateway, we were able to capture and transmit energy production and consumption data, with our live dashboards. In the usability testing phase, we focused on the user journey for our prosumers and consumers, enhancing visualisation for data charts and optimising the contract for difference (CFD) settlement process.

Functional Phase – Development of front-end and back-end dashboards with live data feeds from PowerPods and Energy Market Company (EMC).

Data from PowerPod includes:
– Power produced and/or consumed
– Other sensors if available (i.e. irradiance, temperature, humidity)

Data from EMC includes:
– Uniform Singapore Energy Price (USEP) data
– Market demand data
– Establishment of a small demonstration featuring a residential rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system with PowerPod and irradiance sensors

Usability Testing Phase – Further development of user dashboardsProsumer view:
– Base (physical, based on USEP) + CFD settlement line items (paper)
– Production and consumption data, pricing, settlement, and basic accounting
– Historical data

Retailer view:
– Cost price for each customer + CFD settlement
– Pricing options and reports generation

Consumer view:
– Total payable = payment to prosumer + payment to retailer
– Consumption breakdown, pricing, settlement, and basic accounting
– Historical data

ELECTRIFY Admin View:
– For operations, user, and retailer support

Super Admin (Internal View):
– Tools Monitoring and alerting modules for various projects, regions, and deployments
– Analytics and Business Intelligence

Recruitment of interested parties for closed-door usability testing
– Online sign-up sheet for prosumers and consumers
– Marketing through ELECTRIFY’s media channels

Deployment of IoT hardware at selected prosumer and consumer sites
– Engage Licensed Electrical Workers (LEW) authorised by the EMA to perform electrical installation works
– Hardware team to test various hardware options and communication protocols to evaluate stability, performance, and cost

Execution of an end-to-end P2P energy trading cycle from registration to billing
– Participants will engage in P2P trading for three months and receive a simulated bill monthly

Hardware

PowerPod is Electrify’s IoT gateway for capturing and transmitting energy data from consumers and prosumers. Our team has conducted technology scanning and selected BlueOne as the vendor for PowerPod. The current model, HJ8000, is an industrial router capable of data transmission through LAN, 3G/4G, and WiFi. It supports various communication protocols (TCP/IP, UDP, ICMP, SMTP, HTTP, POP3, etc) and features an embedded Linux system to ensure stability and security of data transmission. Our team will continue to field-test other models and technology options.

Architecture

Synergy’s general architecture is illustrated below:

Synergy Alpha

Results  

Summary
  1. All success criteria met.
  2. Onboarded 12 consumers and 3 prosumers. Electrical works were carried out by licensed contractors and the initial configuration by the ELECTRIFY team.
  3. Completed back-end IT integration with the existing infrastructure of a professionally managed industrial rooftop system, thereby demonstrating our ability to scale Synergy to larger PV systems (e.g. utility-scale).
Data Acquisition Insights
  1. Consumers were unaware of their energy consumption, as only their monthly utility bills provide insights if any at all to their daily consumption patterns. The PowerPods and smart meters installed are able to provide awareness of daily consumption patterns.
  2. Consumers are accustomed to having contractors come to their homes to install electrical devices (e.g. cable television boxes, broadband endpoints) but coordination is labour-intensive. ELECTRIFY will outsource this subcontractor for large-scale deployment with clear scope-of-works, verifiable checklists, and performance standards.
  3. The PowerPods communicate to ELECTRIFY’s back-end database through 3G or WiFi. 3G communications are reliable but expensive, while WiFi communications tap on the site’s local wireless network and incur little cost. However, homeowners are administrators of their WiFi networks. This left us with no control over network uptime, security settings, and network changes (e.g. changing of router, reconfiguring password). Some users who had security concerns with granting us access to their home WiFi networks— for these users; we used 3G communications.
  4. Looking forward, for the next phase, we aim to conclude a partnership with a licensed retailer with access to half-hour meter data and use that data for Synergy.
  5. As part of the Synergy Alpha, we have carried out back-end integration with the IT systems of a solar developer to demonstrate that we can accommodate larger PV systems. The PV system that we integrated with is a 1.6MW industrial rooftop solar PV system.
  6. We have scoped the back-end integration requirements for the sleeving retailer.
Web Platform Insights
  1. The current platform allows P2P trading across the main grid in Singapore by using CFDs with the wholesale electricity price as a reference.
  2. We successfully simulated P2P trades between our consumers and prosumers using our basic matching engine (BME) with a simulated sleeving retailer.
Usability Testing Insights

We sat down with a selected group of our Alpha participants (consumers and prosumers) to obtain direct qualitative feedback and evaluate the ease of use of our platform. Through interviews with these users, they were asked to complete specifics tasks, as we observed them in the process. Tasks include creating an account on the Synergy Alpha site, selecting and applying for an electricity plan, determining one’s energy consumption and/or production for a given period, and paying an outstanding bill. From these sessions, we gained a wealth of data that provided insights into users’ preferences and motivations. We learnt that users appreciated the modern, clean design of the site and found it was easy to navigate. With these results, we built an interface for Beta that is both uncomplicated and informative, keeping our site’s simplicity without compromising on clarity for users.

Next Steps – Synergy Beta

Having met our success criteria, we consider the Alpha to be a success and will proceed with the next phase of development—the Beta. The key objectives of the Beta are:

  1. Refine user experience of Synergy and deploy new features, incorporating insights from the Alpha.
  2. Implement an advanced matching engine with real-time imbalance matching
  3. Develop data use case through ongoing collection and enhanced visualisation of real-time PowerPod data
  4. Execute commercial transactions by working with a licensed retailer and developing Synergy’s IT system to interface with existing meter data management requirements
  5. Onboard 50 participants (mix of consumers and prosumers)

Moving on to beta (better) things, we are slated to launch our Synergy Beta right here at home by Q3 2019. Stay tuned to take part in this ground-breaking project or register your interest here. Till then, get psyched!

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