The power and utility industry is being shaped by consumer sentiment and demands. Consumers increasingly want simplicity, choice, and control over their power usage and costs, and they are eager to see power utilities shift into more renewable, safer, cleaner energy from decentralized sources. Utility companies who don’t understand these demands will find themselves far behind the competition, who are eagerly willing to disrupt today’s archaic system. Below are a few ways consumers are shaping future energy models and what manufacturers can do to empower energy providers to meet these demands.
Information, Communication, Control
Consumers want more control over their energy expenses. As electricity costs continue to rise, little is being done to control costs. One of the easiest ways for consumers to control costs is to control how and when energy is used within their homes and businesses. This requires data and smart interactive technology.
- Artificial intelligence, like chatbots and digital assistants, can help utilities meet consumer demands for quick, low-cost response to common communications transactions.
- Communications tools such as customized energy-use reports, cost-savings recommendations, high-bill forecast alerts, and on-demand data visualizations can put information, insight, and control of high-cost billing into the hands of consumers.
- Smart thermometer apps and remote shut-off valves that allow consumers to make remote adjustments can help consumers feel more in control over their bill, and thus better involved in solutions to reduce overuse and waste.
This demand-response model can also help utility companies reduce wholesale energy costs and pass those savings onto consumers.
Signaling when consumers hit specific energy consumption thresholds can trigger consumer behavior to adjust or change consumption habits.
By helping consumers manage their use, utility companies can become less dependent on the wholesale marketplace to cover energy shortages and thus more in control over their own pricing and reliability. Manufacturers looking to solve these issues should consider smart technology with two-way communication between the consumers and energy providers as well as between the consumer and the technology set-up in their smart homes and businesses.
Smart grid technology is another opportunity for utility companies to meet consumer demands. Computers, controls, smart meters, power lines, and monitoring systems that integrate into consumer hubs can empower energy companies to effectively monitor supply demands and thus prevent the need for rolling blackouts to manage or reduce excess consumption.
Today’s tech-savvy gig economy with ubiquitous wireless communications is fueling small and medium-sized businesses to drive innovation in power and utility aggregation, storage, and distribution for business and residential consumers.
Smaller businesses are more flexible and more connected to others with the same needs, challenges, and desires. They are forming geographical and non-geographical communities or tribes. These tribes of unified needs collaborate, share, and are now solving many of their own problems on how they can generate, store, and distribute greener, cleaner, safer energy on their own.
Their flexibility and vast numbers around the globe also enable them to experiment with innovative products and services, and they are more likely to implement these innovative solutions in their own residence, as well as recommend them to other residential and business consumers, causing a ripple effect in the adoption of new technology and innovation.(Think shared communities such as solar, smart cities, company-driven (Amazon, Google, Walmart), also by verticals or groups / sectors of people, job-types, and usage needs).
Cleaner, Safer Energy
Consumers increasingly support clean and renewable energy resources and want to see more power creation generated from them. In fact, support is so strong that 41% of consumers say they are willing to spend more for clean energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass, than they are to maintain the current system. Especially in the wake of so many fires sparked by an aging and degenerative power grid.
Utility companies will need to work with distributed grid components to create two-way power flow systems that collect and redistribute power generated from remote clean energy sources, as well as empowering consumers with more control over their own power generation. Manufacturers who can help the utilities do this will have a huge opportunity in today’s market.
Cyber Protection Demands
Consumers are becoming more versed and concerned about cyber-attacks in general and have a greater understanding of the attacks happening against utility companies. Just about everything is dependent on energy, including hospitals, schools, grocery stores, and banks. A successful grid shutdown can paralyze communities, leading to potential physical and financial harm.
To prevent hackers from gaining control over part or all of the grid’s distribution network, energy companies need to improve industrial control systems (ICS) from reputable, trusted vendors to prevent compromised components from being introduced into the system.
Prosumer Energy Sources
Today’s energy customers are also becoming power suppliers in decentralized microgrids. These proactive consumers—or prosumers—are becoming a bigger factor in how utility companies obtain and sell power. When prosumers sell energy back into the grid, utility companies can offer renewable energy sources with a reduced chance of overburdening traditional power plants. This model expands the wholesale network of consumers netting negative energy consumption from the limited powerplant resources, thus, meeting energy demands without overburdening the system. This also allows utility companies to offer more by way of renewable energy and charge more for the clean energy.
Some prosumers may even go further to become ‘prosumagers’—producing, consuming, and managing their energy by investing in storage and creating their own distributed energy resources (DERs). This is only the beginning of the consumer empowerment story as consumers, prosumers, and prosumagers engage in peer-to-peer trading. For example, a prosumer’s excess generation may be used to power the house of a neighbor across the street, or in a neighboring city.
California became a national leader in 2009 with Assembly Bill 920 that incentivized energy users to install and use an alternative, electric energy-generating systems such as solar or wind. Net energy metering (NEM) requires Californians to opt into the system where the utility company installs revenue tracking meters at participating households. Utility companies need to work with consumers and regulators to address growing microgrid energy costs and safety.
Bottom Line for Utilities and Power Manufacturers
Building the models to implement the demands of consumers requires innovative solutions developed by utility engineers and manufacturers with relationships to the right regulators and inventors. Pacific Power Reps has those relationships and has been supplying cutting-edge innovation in the power and utility industry since 2013.
To learn more, visit ppreps.com or call 1-888-600-4874 to schedule a consultation
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About Pacific Power Reps
PPR is power and utility industry sales rep firm serving the west coast including California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.
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