Four Steps for Improving Engagement with SMBs
Top consumer smart grid news hand-selected and brought to you by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative.
SMBs are often underserved as energy customers. The sheer number of them, their varied energy profiles and diverse motivations – among other factors – make them a challenging segment for electric utilities and their partners to understand, let alone engage. At the same time, this customer segment comprises as much as 75 percent of the business customer base for some utilities.
Prepay electric service: Does it help or harm consumers? That was the question covered in a 2014 National Geographic article. In it, Carol Biedrzycki, director of a Texas-based consumer group, was quoted saying that reduced consumption patterns of prepay customers result more from absence of cash than awareness of energy use.
Battery storage has long been viewed as the “holy grail” for electricity systems that are now integrating increasing amounts of DERs, such as solar and electric vehicles. Many hold out particular hope for residential batteries because of their ability to solve problems for both consumers and the electric grid.
Renewable energy sources can be intermittent, but through energy storage technology, the energy can be used at any time. To test the benefits of energy storage, AMP is partnering with Amber Kinetics, a clean energy technology company. Amber Kinetics invented a technology that extends the duration and the efficiency of flywheel systems from minutes to four hours.
Why are people stopping by a utility’s payment office? “When I joined Southern [Company], it was, I guess you could say, urban myth, or urban legend, that the payment offices – especially in the small towns in the areas that we serve – people came to socialize, they went to see their neighbor, catch up on the local gossip of the day, because that's what you do in a small town, apparently,” said Lincoln Wood, project manager at Southern Company. Then they did some research.
Global wind and solar developers took 40 years to install their first trillion watts of power generation capacity, and the next trillion may be finished within the next five years. That’s the conclusion of research by BloombergNEF, which estimated the industry reached the 1-terrawatt milestone sometime in the first half of the year. That’s almost as much generation capacity as the entire U.S. power fleet.
The potential for electric vehicles to play a role on the power grid is clear. Parked vehicles could store surplus renewable power and simulate small power plants by discharging it to the grid when demand is high. There are more questions than answers, though, about how that interaction will affect drivers and their vehicles.
Michigan is moving ahead of other Midwest states as its two largest utilities propose a combined $20.5 million investment in EV infrastructure. A key aspect to the three-year plans from DTE Energy and Consumers Energy is incentivizing EV drivers to charge at home during off-peak hours at night. With preliminary data so far, the utilities say that with more customers driving EVs, program incentives could drive down rates for all customers by millions of dollars.