May 17, 2020

Google Enters the Power Market with Online Tools for Utilities

Arun Majumdar
Google Energy Access
Nest Labs
2 min
Google has entered the energy sector.
Google is gearing up for a greater presence in the $363.7 billion U.S. power sales market by developing tools that help deliver electricity more efficie...

Google is gearing up for a greater presence in the $363.7 billion U.S. power sales market by developing tools that help deliver electricity more efficiently to homes and businesses.

The company is in the early stages of creating hardware and software tools to manage power lines and other infrastructure.  Google’s Energy Access team—led by Arun Majumdar, vice president of the company’s energy unit—is currently developing the technology.  Majumdar joined Google in December 2012. Previously, he worked for the Department of Energy, where he pushed for innovation and new products through the Advanced Research Projects Agency Energy group.  Craig Barratt, a top leader at Google, is overseeing a consortium that includes Google’s Energy Access team to explore infrastructure, Internet access and energy.

Google is a huge consumer of electricity for the computer servers that power its services and is examining methods to transform the utility industry, which has recently found itself struggling to adapt to changing demands. As renewable energy sources such as solar and wind come online, the grids that power them will need to be more flexible and efficient.

Former secretary of the U.S. Department of energy Steven Chu commented on Google’s plans by saying “They recognize there is a huge wide-open space and that the utility companies are not stepping up to the plate.  They see a huge market opportunity.”

Google is also funding projects in health care, computerized eyewear and self-driving cars. The company has been expanding its investments over the past few years in an effort to make energy more clean and efficient.  In January, Google spent $3.2 billion to acquire digital thermostat company Nest Labs. The company is also an investor in Atlantic Grid Development LLC, which develops and operates an offshore electric transmission project.

Additionally, Google has invested more than $1 billion in environmentally friendly energy power projects globally, from Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in Oregon to a solar photovoltaic power plant in Germany. These investments have provided the company with valuable experience in the power industry and prepared it for developing new products for use in managing the ever-evolving power market.

A recent job posting on Google’s website stated “Google is working on innovative solutions for access to clean, low-cost electricity. Google is seeking to develop technologies and products to address global opportunities for electricity delivery via new and improved infrastructure.”  The company acknowledged its assessment of the potential, saying that their array of projects involves “solutions that aim to fundamentally change the world of power.”


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Jul 26, 2021

Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Ofwat confirms levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue

Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.

The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.

Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.  

In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue. 

Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”  

There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:   

  1. Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps. 
  2. Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold. 
  3. Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice. 

Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.

Anita Dougall, CEO and Founding Partner at Sagacity, said Ofwat’s decision comes hot on the heels of Ofgem’s price cap rise in April.

"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.

"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."

United Utilities picks up pipeline award

A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.

The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.

“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.

Camus Energy secures $16m funding

Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent VenturesWave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.

As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.

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