What Makes a Happy Utility Customer?
Top consumer smart energy news hand-selected and brought to you by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative.
While everyone expects the lights to be on when they want them to be on, today’s residential customers have varying expectations from their electricity providers beyond power reliability based on their individual lifestyles, values, concerns and interests. When it comes to improving customer satisfaction, providers need to listen to their customers through focus groups, surveying, community events and other methods to determine their specific needs.
In filing an updated Smart Energy Plan last week, Ameren Missouri signaled its intent to invest $8.4 billion into grid modernization efforts over the next five years. These efforts will take the form of upgrades to old infrastructure, increasingly automated technology, stronger power poles and improved power lines, all to support the rollout of additional renewable energy and improve overall reliability and the speed of restoration.
Duke Energy has proposed an EV charging program that could allow some residential customers in North Carolina to charge a vehicle for a fixed monthly fee as low as $19.99. In exchange, the customer would allow Duke to manage the vehicle's charging to avoid grid stress and higher costs. The utility is trying to provide a “seamless customer experience and an ecosystem of EV products,” while also avoiding costly grid upgrades necessary to meet rising peak demand.
Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) reported the second-lowest rate of power interruptions experienced by customers in its history in 2021. The average number of interruptions experienced by customers last year was 0.68, compared to 2017’s all-time low of 0.63. Since 2010, electric outages have decreased 45 percent, and outage length has been reduced by 52 minutes, or 37 percent.
Pursuit of decarbonization goals is catalyzing an evolution of energy efficiency programs, which traditionally incentivize high-efficiency equipment and weatherization. As states and corporations pursue greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, growing opportunities emerge to engage with utility customers and discuss cost-efficient clean energy options.
Consumers Energy recently pledged to make the pursuit of electric vehicles easier in Michigan over the next two years, with the planned deployment of 200 new chargers, including 100 fast chargers. Part of a wider effort to power one million EVs by 2030, Consumers Energy has gone big on the electric vehicle push at a time when EV sales have risen 58 percent in Michigan over just the last year.
Although most investor-owned utilities have set targets for decarbonization, many have also under-estimated the cost of failing to accelerate their decarbonization efforts, according to a new report from Deloitte. Based on public filings, utilities anticipate a price of carbon in the range of $3-55 per metric ton by 2030, and $60-120 per metric ton by 2050.
Barry Cinnamon, a longtime Silicon Valley solar entrepreneur and CEO of Cinnamon Energy Systems, is a big advocate of fully electric-powered homes. He’s also put his money where his mouth is, converting his own home heating and cooking – and the car he drives – to run on electricity supplied by his solar panels and battery as well as the grid.