Industry Coalescence Key to Consumer Adoption

By Jim Morozzi, GridWise Alliance

Modernizing the grid and optimizing our energy resources are essential to economic prosperity and society. A modernized grid offers the potential of increased operational efficiency, reliability and a sustainable energy future. A key to realizing an optimized electric system is communicating with and engaging energy consumers.

Many utilities know it’s essential to interact with customers in a new way. Two-way communication between utility and customer is integral to providing simple, secure and effective means for customers to manage and reduce their energy usage. Consumer engagement activities are growing rapidly across the nation.

Take the recently announced Green Button initiative spearheaded by the White House and Department of Energy (DOE). The goal of the program is to provide energy consumers with easy-to-understand and timely information about their energy consumption. The program is predicated on making energy information available to consumers in a common, downloadable format. The goal is to empower consumers by giving them the tools to control the amount of energy they use, when it’s being used, and ways to reduce their energy bills.

Capturing the data is step one, but delivering it to consumers in a simple and understandable manner is critical to the success of this program. As part of the Green Button initiative, the DOE in partnership with Pacific Gas & Electric and meter manufacturer Itron is running a contest inviting application developers to design simple, informative applications consumers can use to manage their energy consumption. After reading last month’s “After Educating Consumers on Smart Meters, Can Utilities Engage and Excite Them?”, it is plain to see utilities are taking data access and consumer engagement seriously.

Incentivizing the bright and creative minds of our technology developers to create easy-to-use applications for consumers to manage their energy usage is integral to the modernization of electric systems.

The Green Button effort is not the only consumer engagement initiative. Recently utilities in Texas and California sponsored the Biggest Energy Saver Contest. This three-phase campaign was designed to increase awareness about grid modernization and opportunities for energy savings. The program included an energy- saving contest for customers, a hosted online community to share information and a smart phone application- development contest. The contest was viewed favorably by regulators in both markets. The Texas results are compelling:

  • More than 6,100 enrollments in Smart Meter Texas from June through September 2011;
  • A 172 percent increase-nearly triple the average enrollments for June through September;
  • 356 participants;
  • Twenty-six percent energy savings among top 10 percent of participants (when compared with same time between 2010 and 2011); and
  • Surveyed consumers familiar with BES view advanced meters 17 percent more favorably.

The Biggest Energy Saver is a great example of how customer engagement programs can benefit customers and utilities involved in grid modernization.

The electricity industry needs more creative programs such as these. The industry must continue to adopt simple and common standards to create the platforms for new and adaptive technologies. As our industry equipment manufacturers, system integrators and operators continue to develop technologies to address consumer and industry demand, it allows grid initiatives to move forward confidently. This creates greater momentum on the already growing pace of grid modernization activities.

Jim Morozzi is the president and CEO of the GridWise Alliance. The alliance is the industry-leading coalition advocating for the transformation of the electric system to achieve a sustainable energy future for the public good.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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