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Consumer-Centricity in the Energy Industry - Alternative Facts or the Real Deal?

Originally published 2/7/2017, updated as of 6/26/2018

I recently interviewed an MBA candidate interested in growing her career in the energy industry. Near the end of the conversation she asked how the push towards consumer-centricity was being received. Specifically, did utility executives agree that putting the customer first and offering personalized products and services was the way of the future. I confidently answered yes based on all of the conversations we have with utility professionals, as well as the projects we have underway.
Shortly thereafter, I realized there was an important follow-up question that should have been considered. Do the technology vendors serving the energy industry also believe in the importance of this transition?
Over the past few years, the energy industry has become flooded with buzzwords related to efficiency and the modernization of utility processes. Siloed data, grid stability, demand response, and network management…these terms are inherently exciting--and incredibly important. However, it seems that the most valuable focus of all -- a truly optimized customer experience -- is something that many vendors have overlooked. This is obviously a problem.
To put this into context, consider Tendril’s unique, customer-focused approach to demand management, something that typically hasn’t been considered consumer-friendly...

Air conditioning accounts for half the energy use in a typical home, yet it is a highly manageable load. Customers don’t care when their compressors run; they care that their homes remain comfortable. But with traditional demand response programs those compressors don’t run. They are turned off when consumers need them most.
In short, the historic means to curtail this load make customers uncomfortable, which has severely limited the number of days demand can be managed. However, we can now use energy analytics and behavioral science to manage cooling load without sacrificing comfort. The key is finding a customer’s comfort range.
The idea of a comfort range seems almost self-evident – has anyone ever bemoaned a 70-degree spring day because it’s not 72 degrees? A person’s comfort range can be four degrees or more. Yet thermostats have been solving for a single degree for more than 100 years.
When smart thermostats are combined with an analytics platform that learns customer behaviors and can analyze how the home retains cooling, load can be managed while keeping customers perfectly comfortable. This opens the door for demand management operations to be run on a continuous basis -- allowing energy use to be optimized every hour of every day to solve a wide range of grid challenges.
This active, daily optimization of cooling load can reduce air conditioning peak load by 80% and total usage by over 20%. Furthermore, customers can save roughly $50 per year through energy efficiency, and up to another $100 for shifting peak, which can be realized through time-of-use (TOU) rates or utility rebates.
By putting the consumer first, we are actually delivering better results on all sides. The formula is simple: creating more value for customers increases participation rates and higher  participation rates increase the amount of peak energy being shaved.
The energy industry may be teeming with compelling buzzwords, but they’re of limited value when they don’t address user  behavior, comfort or an understanding of the customer. At Tendril, we’re using data analytics and behavioral science to deliver superior energy efficiency savings and demand management results without sacrificing customer satisfaction or comfort. Download our Orchestrated Energy case study to learn more about our customer-focused approach to demand management.





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