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Smarter access to cheaper electricity tariffs

There Corporation’s innovative home energy management technology recently opened up the way for the household customers of a leading Finnish utility to achieve valuable savings on their electricity bills by automatically using the cheapest possible electricity tariff for their heating and hot water needs.

The roots of There Corporation’s technology lie in the work done on the Smart Home programme and using mobile phones to control home appliances at the Nokia Research Center; and the company was created in May 2009 as a management buyout to commercialise and build on this technology. The original know-how was transferred to There under a licensing agreement and has been supplemented and extended with additional energy measurement and smart grid expertise.

ThereGate™ has been commercialised as a technology-independent, open Linux-based platform capable of integrating different systems and equipment used in buildings and homes for remote data acquisition, control, and automation. Any browser-enabled PC, tablet, or smartphone can act as a ThereGate™ control node; and a simple, unified interface makes monitoring and controlling energy and home solutions both easy and convenient.

The system can also be integrated into back-end systems, Internet services, and portals. Back-end servers ensure a seamless and secure link between a smartphone and a ThereGate™ control unit; while automatic software updating makes it easy to deploy new services.

The local applications and user interfaces made possible by ThereGate™ offer excellent interactivity and speed – avoiding the data throughput problems that can make other approaches impractical or expensive, as well as the privacy issues associated with the volume and granularity of real-time or near real-time measurement data.

Hour-by-hour

Known as Fortum Fiksu, the new service from Fortum will enable households to achieve major savings on their electricity bills by automatically using electricity supplied at the cheapest possible tariff for their radiators and hot water. All that consumers need to take advantage of the service, based on There technology, is a smart electricity meter, a dedicated control unit, and an hourly-based electricity supply contract.

With these in place, the system will constantly monitor the lowest tariffs available for every hour of the day and match these with the latest weather forecast data to identify how much heating a home will need and when – and then select the cheapest tariff. If they wish, customers can set a system alarm to alert them if their tariff exceeds a specified level. They can also monitor their electricity usage hour by hour, both for heating and other usage. Fortum estimates that the system could save up to 15% on normal night-tariffs.

There believes that its technology represents an important step in helping bring energy consumption and energy generation more in line with each other. As the system used by the Fortum service is standards-based, it can easily be localised for use in a variety of different countries; and There products are already on sale in many European countries.

As There’s technology is compatible with decentralised generation, it can also optimise electricity generated by a home’s solar panels, for example, with consumption and electricity sourced from the grid.
> Kari Rantanen
(Published in HighTech Finland 2013)