How Customer-Centric Should Utilities Be?
Top consumer smart grid news hand-selected and brought to you by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative.
After ten years of studying consumer behavior in the utility industry, Patty Durand, the president and CEO of SECC, knows a thing or two about what utility customers care about and what they don’t. The organization, which was launched at DistribuTECH in 2010, is planning a large anniversary event at DTECH 2020 to celebrate 10 years of studying consumer interests and behaviors. And the answer to the question posed by the headline of this article? Very!
Utilities have made tremendous strides in refining their customer engagement strategies in recent years, fully embracing modern outreach channels like social media. With the explosive growth of smart speakers and voice assistants across the world, utilities are pursuing voice as the newest channel for engagement. Utility voice apps built for Alexa and Google Assistant are delivering personalized insights, bill information, program recommendations and more — increasing customer engagement and contributing to revenue generation.
New research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory finds energy efficiency can help utilities meet peak demand at a low cost relative to the capital cost of other resources. Efficiency benefits are typically quantified based on the economic value of annual energy reductions across the life of the program or action. But with rising peak demand in many regions, researchers say the utility sector is increasingly interested in demand savings as well.
The Brattle Group just released its final report on a study commissioned by Uplight to explore what makes DSM programs successful. In this study, Brattle researchers examined programs from all 50 states and the District of Columbia from 2012-2017 to perform a regression analysis across a range of variables to determine what factors drive energy savings. Each administrator model (utility, state, third-party and hybrid) for DSM programs utilized across the country shows strengths and weaknesses in their execution.
As customers become more sophisticated, and satisfying them grows increasingly important to utilities, AI is emerging as a way to increase engagement, though with a range of challenges, analysts told Utility Dive. For example, smart thermostats use AI to learn customer behaviors over time and manage temperature settings.
Senior Services Plus, a nonprofit in Alton, Illinois, offers exercise classes, foster grandparent programs, travel, meals-on-wheels and many other programs for low-income seniors in the rural community. Soon the organization will have about $25,000 more per year for such programming, thanks to energy savings through the Illinois Solar for All program, which incentivizes solar in low-income and environmental justice areas underrepresented in the solar market.
In less than six months, the DTE Energy’s Charging Forward program has officially approved 150 EV charger port rebates, building up Michigan’s charging network. The program, which launched in June, aimed to increase EV awareness while offering rebates for residential Level 2 chargers, and public Level 2 and DC Fast Charging infrastructure enablement incentives. As of this month, such incentives have brought 14 DC Fast Chargers to highways throughout Michigan, at $20,000 per installation. Another 75 Level 2 chargers were drawn in by $2,500 rebates for installation in public spaces, workplaces and multi-unit dwellings, such as apartment buildings.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy recently signed an executive order backing a goal of 7.5 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2035, more than doubling the state's existing 3.5-gigawatt target for 2030. By the mid-2030s, offshore wind could provide New Jersey with half of its electricity, Murphy said in a speech alongside former Vice President Al Gore. “No other renewable energy resource provides us either the electric generation or economic growth potential of offshore wind,” Murphy said.