Working within complicated technology and concepts, Transpire has helped the team prioritise, reconcile and focus on what really matters when developing the Solar Exchange customer experience to maximise its impact. The resulting output was testament to making the complex simple, but in parallel helped to embed new tools and processes into the team that are easily replicable.
– Nick Ruddock, General Manager, Energy Management at AGL Energy
As the largest ASX-listed investor in renewables, AGL is committed to shaping a sustainable energy future for Australia. Its aim is to prosper in a carbon-constrained world and build customer advocacy as the energy industry transforms from coal-fired generation to more renewable options.
To this end, AGL proceeded to build a ‘peer-to-peer’ solar energy trading platform with the aim of empowering customers to buy and sell solar energy among friends, family, or a community.
Similar to the sharing economy, P2P trading offers the consumer greater empowerment, more choice about their energy use, and the opportunity to save money.
AGL’s P2P trading platform (Solar Exchange) set out to help customers share their solar savings with people they know, or maximise their rooftop investment in solar. It was also designed to help those who don’t have solar to save on their energy costs.
AGL approached Transpire to review the original technical stack of its Solar Exchange platform, identify opportunities for performance enhancements and cost reduction, and improve the customer experience for a simple and engaging digital solution.
Solution – Design
Solar Exchange takes inspiration from how stock exchanges handle transactions. To replicate this trading methodology, AGL required an algorithm that automatically executed transactions of solar energy between customers based on their personalised buying and selling settings.
These trading settings empowered customers to set their rates for buying and selling solar energy. Solar system owners could choose to sell their solar energy for more than the feed-in tariff they receive from AGL, or help buyers to save on their energy bills by selling solar energy at a discount.
Similarly, buyers could help solar owners earn more for solar energy by choosing to pay a higher rate than they do for grid electricity, or earn savings on their bill by selecting to buy solar energy for cheaper. In essence, the platform matched trades in line with customer settings. What’s more, customers received a bonus from AGL for completing trades.
Communicating such complexity was a challenge for Transpire’s UX team, who needed to make the platform easy to use and understand. After conducting research, Transpire concluded that customers were more concerned with the savings achieved from trading rather than detailed energy usage and generation data , so this became the focus.
At the heart of the Solar Exchange platform had to be a sense of community and the experience of contributing towards the sustainable energy transition – offering an opportunity for solar households to trade a representation of their unused solar energy to those who don’t have panels installed, for a price that might be lower or higher than the customer’s current feed-in tariff.
But this is where the principles of the sharing economy come into play, and which AGL hopes could lead to more community-based initiatives in the future.
Solution – Development
Transpire kicked off the technical side of the project by working with developers to assess and analyse the existing platform’s architecture. From there, the team could leverage its expertise of Python and Django to deliver a ‘Version 2.0’ of the original platform, which was supported in Amazon Web Services.
Transpire also completely redesigned the customer facing web application, API middleware, as well as the customer management and trading system.
Another thing Transpire needed to create (absent from the original version) was a reporting solution that measured KPIs such as user engagement and retention. AGL wanted customers frequently logging into the platform to see how much energy they were trading and saving.
Transpire delivered two reporting dashboard solutions: Google Analytics to track clicks and user flows, as well as an ELK Stack transaction database using Elasticsearch, Logstash and Kibana. Information about energy generation and consumption is sourced from smart meters using automated scheduled tasks.
With the design and development of the Solar Exchange platform, Transpire is helping AGL innovate and stay one step ahead of the curve in an ever-changing energy industry, putting ‘power’ back in the hands of consumers.
As more of our customers install solar and batteries, they are playing an increasingly important role in the electricity system, and we are finding new ways to enable them to actively participate in that system and engage with each other and their community.
– Elisabeth Brinton, former Head of New Energy, AGL
Solar Exchange is currently understood to be the largest in market trial of P2P capability in Australia.
AGL’s Solar Exchange platform is now live with over 200 households participating in the pilot.
Both solar and non-solar customers can save money and help the environment.
My motivation was to support family members who don’t have solar panels by sharing energy with them and helping them offset their power bills. I strongly recommend it to others. The more these programs are spread throughout the community, the more we can rely on local consumption of green power. It’s a very satisfying thing to do.
– Christine Odgers, original Solar Exchange trial participant