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Highlights from the AESP 2018 National Conference

Utilities have always been successful at maintaining the power grid, and even amongst the most trying times they’ve sustained its resiliency, reliability and safety. But now they’re also required to forecast the grid of the future. It’s on them to anticipate the distributed energy resource future, to project how needs and demands will change, and to support the smart home.

This year’s AESP National Conference in New Orleans focused a lot on becoming aware of what’s next, and anticipating change rather than reacting to it. Dr. Janet Lapp, the conference’s keynote speaker, noted that utilities are becoming more agile, which is great, but it’s not nearly enough. She urged utilities to be prepared — to make the shift from reactionary to progressive. And many of the presenters at the show proved they are doing just that.

From new technologies reaching underserved customer segments to drones helping engineers in the field, utilities are embracing the self-disruption they’ve been tasked with. For instance, Val Jenson of Comed is on a mission to upend energy efficiency (EE) programs with the goal of commoditization. He recognizes the need to shift from compliance-driven program design to focusing on serving the individual customer. He even went as far to broach the stigma of monetizing EE programs. By adding monetary incentives to program goals, Jenson pointed out, utilities would be motivated to succeed rather than to simply not fail. This could open the door to services customers actually want, such as net metering, peer to peer energy exchanges and so on. With this point of view, the utility of the future serves as a platform, and the more people can do with it, the more valuable it becomes.

Customer centricity has been the battle cry as the evolution of utility business model continues. During the conference, we got to see firsthand how it is being applied, and the benefits utilities are realizing. For example, DTE Energy implemented a design thinking mechanism for their marketing model and applied it to all overlooked or underserved segments. This led them to become the first utility in the US to start using video remote interpretation services. With this technology, they are able to accomodate for the 100,000 deaf Michigan residents that exclusively speak American Sign Language.

On the smart home front, David Jacot of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power noted that there is awareness amongst consumers of the potential in IoT, but not a lot of uptake. He projected, though, that eventually we will get to a point where the home is like a car and will tell you what it needs (time for new furnace filters, an AC tune-up, etc). In order for that to take off, the technologies need to be integrated so that the customer can take immediate action (such as including an offer from Home Depot or referrals for HVAC maintenance). Utilities that leverage these enabling technologies for DSM and DER purposes will get baseload EE and DR benefits as well as load balancing (through things like electric vehicle charging at strategic times of the day).

It’s an exciting time in the utility industry. The rubber is meeting the road as utilities apply new technologies and customer-centric methodologies to real-world practices. I look forward to sharing more ideas, breakthroughs and successes throughout the year as Tendril works with our own utility partners to continue modernizing DSM and contribute to utility self-disruption.

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Categories

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  • Continuous Demand Management
  • Customer Ops & CSAT
  • DERs
  • DSM
  • Data Analytics
  • Demand Response
  • Disruption
  • Energy Efficiency
  • HERs
  • High Bill Alerts
  • Privacy & Security
  • Smart Home
  • Solar

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