Powerley has launched Powerlync, a breakthrough in energy management, packaged in a low-cost smart plug. Designed for mass appeal and ease of installation, Powerlync looks and functions just like a smart plug while also connecting to:
The home’s electric meter – enabling real-time energy management for the whole house and major appliances without any additional hardware.
The smart home ecosystem, including Apple HomeKit and Amazon Alexa – enabling scenes and routines that deliver greater efficiency and control via mobile and voice.
Smart home devices, such as thermostats, lights, plugs, and more – empowering users with the energy insights they need to make the right energy decisions.
“With over 300,000 households using Powerley’s solutions today, Powerlync will accelerate the adoption of energy management,” said Manoj Kumar, CEO of Powerley, “We are building on the company’s five-year legacy of empowering households with insights to proactively control their energy and carbon footprints.”
DRIVING ENERGY MANAGEMENT ADOPTION
Developed in partnership with leading electric utilities, Powerlync was designed from the ground-up to take energy management mainstream. Powerlync solves the key challenges that have hindered the adoption of energy management for the last decade, driving more value for utilities and their customers.
A trifecta to drive mass adoption. Powerlync removes the roadblocks to wider energy management adoption – cumbersome installations, high hardware costs and limited usability. Frictionless, intuitive, and affordable, Powerlync delivers energy insights instantly to your phone, the web or your voice assistant, at half the cost of a typical smart plug.
The potential of smart meters finally unlocked. Electric utilities have invested billions building a network of over 100 million smart meters across the U.S. today. Powerlync taps into the energy signals that already exist in the home, transforming them new insights, services and tools for utility customers.
Energy interactions vs. transactions. Powerlync enables a digital energy experience for utilities that consumers expect today. Rather than rely on dated monthly energy bill data, Powerlync provides instantaneous and personalized energy advice at the moment it matters – driving customer engagement and a new relationship with utilities that goes well beyond bill payments.
DELIVERING A NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH ENERGY
With wider adoption and deeper energy engagement, Powerlync will push the impact of utility programs at a substantially lower cost, delivering benefits across the utility. Through Powerlync, both customers and call centers will have access to real-time energy management tools and insights to reduce bill related issues. With just-in-time advanced rate advice, utilities can shift demand while helping customers save more. And, by adding electric vehicles (EV) and distributed energy resources (DER) to the energy management experience, Powerlync will help utilities create a cleaner energy future.
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By unlocking real-time energy insights and control of every appliance and device within the home, Powerley has driven 100 million customer interactions for utilities. Turning these home and energy connections into daily conversations that are reshaping the role of the utility.
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The Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow (LHFT) competition awards nine connected home products and platforms that deliver a compelling value proposition to both consumers and utilities. To realize the CEE Integrated Home vision, Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow is designed to help drive the adoption of efficient, connected products that demonstrate interoperability, reliability, and simplicity. In 2020, the competition sought residential connected lighting, lighting controls, ceiling fans, connected plug load controls, connected heating and cooling (HVAC) and thermostats, connected windows and window attachments, and other connected home devices that successfully deliver a positive consumer experience, energy management, and grid benefit.
Of the 44 products entered, 31 were selected to be evaluated by a panel of expert judges including individuals with proficiency in usability, interoperability, the connected home, IDSM program administration, product installation, specific technology performance, sales, and design.
The 2020 judging panel met during the week of October 12 to participate in a live remote viewing of products installed at the UL facility in Allentown, PA. The judges considered details about product installation and carefully observed the entries’ operation and user interfaces. They were pleased to see a variety of high-quality residential products successfully incorporate connected functionality that enable comfort, convenience, and energy savings for consumers.
Of the connected lighting, controls, and ceiling fan products, the judges identified three winners; Acuity Brands Lighting Juno AI, C by GE Smart Switch Dimming + Motion Sensing, and Modern Forms for their Renegade and Tip-Top Smart Fans.
Hunter Douglas Duette Architella Calypso Honeycomb Shade was selected as the winner for window attachments.
For heating and cooling, the Judges awarded ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control as the overall thermostat winner, Sinopé Technologies Inc. smart thermostat as the winner for electric line voltage heating, and Flair Puck Pro as the winner for a mini split system.
The judges also designated Aquanta Smart Water Heater Controller as a winner and gave special recognition for utility offering for consumers to the Powerley Smart Home Energy Management.
Lighting & Homes for Tomorrow would also like to recognize five manufacturers that demonstrated promising features and thoughtful connected product design across several of the evaluation criteria and were subsequently selected as finalists: Renson Inc., American Lighting, Cordelia Lighting, Allied Air Enterprises, and Somfy Systems, Inc.
These products will be recognized at relevant industry events including the AERC Virtual Fall Meeting on November 19, the HARDI Virtual Summit December 7-9, and Lightovation in January 2021. The award-winning products will also be showcased in a brochure and on the Lighting & Homes for Tomorrowwebsite in late December, as well as promoted by some CEE member energy efficiency program administrators in local offerings. To access complete details on the competition, please visit the website at www.lightingfortomorrow.com.
Over two-thirds of consumers across the U.S. are concerned about their ability to pay their bills, according to a new study from Transunion. The current crisis continues to amplify the energy burden with 16% of respondents saying that they won’t be able to pay their utility bill. Utilities have stepped up to help, but are applying programs from a traditional toolbox that is far too reactive. Payment programs, budget billing and deferred payments are meant to assist people who fall behind on their bills—helping them get out of the hole. But those tools don’t help customers stay out of the hole to begin with. They only provide relief once the energy burden has become unbearable, and that’s quickly becoming the situation for millions of households as a result of the pandemic.
The Key to Breaking the Burden
The increasing risk from non-collectible revenue has risen by 2 percent in recent years according to a report from McKinsey. That same report outlined a number of recommendations to reverse this trend. By reshaping their credit and collections process through better customer onboarding, monitoring and communications, McKinsey said utilities could get ahead of the next downturn while also improving customer experience and loyalty. In a nutshell, that describes what’s needed to break the Energy Burden Cycle (see graphic below).
The energy burden exists, in part, because today’s customers are blind to their energy usage. If their energy spikes and consumption increases, customers won’t know until the bill arrives. For those dealing with financial stress, that’s too late. In fact, it can be the tipping point. Home energy management (HEM) can help mitigate the issue by reducing the burden before people get behind on bills. With access to granular home-energy data, customers can see how individual behaviors or devices contribute to their monthly costs, empowering them to control their consumption. And, with personalized savings advice, customers can predict and prevent end-of-the-month bill surprises.
These same insights can alert the utility when a customer is struggling to stay within an energy budget or seeing surges in energy usage. The utility can then suggest payment solutions before the customer gets into a deeper hole.
Awareness. Control. Relief.
We can tackle the energy burden by pairing home energy management solutions with a utility’s existing payment and assistance programs. In doing so, we can empower customers with greater control over costs while providing the insight and intelligence to identify at-risk customers—extending relief at the moment it matters most. When integrated, the solution becomes more than the sum of its parts, creating a seamless experience that gives personalized guidance to customers to keep costs in-check, but also proactively offers assistance when they get off-track.
Awareness – Make it Accessible and Predictable
The adoption of home energy management solutions has surged since March. Powerley’s utility partners have experienced a 60% increase in adoption of their mobile HEM solutions. With increasing energy burdens, the uptick in adoption of energy management has been immediate. And, one key contributor to the velocity of demand has been accessibility.
Adoption will fail if there is too much friction. This is especially true of vulnerable customer segments. Asking households, especially those battling the burden of financial stress, to take several steps to find and adopt a new technology is not a sustainable path. However, given the high penetration of smart phones across all income levels, mobile is the natural gateway to attack energy burdens. And, for lower income segments, mobile is often their only means to keep connected digitally.
With instantaneous access to energy insights, Powerley’s utility partners are helping their customers realize up to 10 percent energy savings. This journey starts with easy-to-read visualizations showing trends by month or by minute. With a constant connection to a home’s energy usage, Powerley’s HEM solutions provide the insight customers need to curtail costs – delivering energy awareness down to the appliance-level via disaggregation. And, detailing behavior categories, like heating & cooling, kitchen & cooking, laundry, lighting or entertainment.
For those experiencing energy burdens, the power of prediction is essential. Not only seeing what usage is today, but what it is going to be tomorrow – stopping bill surprises before they start. Engagement with Powerley Advisor, a personalized energy assistant, shot up 34% since March – highlighting the need for prescriptive guidance to cut costs. Combining historical usage data with utility rate plans, the experience can offer personalized rate assistance. It shows customers exactly how they’re consuming energy, predicts total costs for the billing cycle and makes detailed rate suggestions for cutting monthly costs.
Control – Take action. Make an impact.
With greater awareness of what is driving their energy bill, customers can take action to reduce their burdens – making minor adjustments to daily routines to impact their bills.
Budget management is the typically the first step to gaining more control. In doing so, the user starts unlocking additional advice and alerts to keep costs on track. Energy budgeting tools build broader awareness of their weekly or monthly usage. By setting targets, customers receive alerts when their usage begins to trend beyond their budgets. This helps customers know when to proactively take steps to stay on track and stop unwelcome surprises when their bills arrive. Since March, Powerley’s utility partners have witnessed a 78% increase in customer engagement in energy budget tracking.
These same detailed HEM insights also give utilities’ customer service representatives (CSRs)—for the first time—a powerful tool for creating better customer experiences. When customers call or use the in-app chat, CSRs can provide personalized coaching, options and benchmarking to help customers reduce their bills. This could include helping them identify the devices in their homes that are using the most electricity, forecasting how much they could save by adjusting thermostats a few degrees, or suggesting methods to reduce their always-on electricity demands.
Relief – Right at The Moment it Matters Most
Increased customer awareness and engagement naturally lead to better remittance outcomes. As customers set new budgets or change behaviors, the energy management experience can automatically offer new rate programs or payment options. Bill assistance questionnaires can be integrated into the energy management experience, helping customers understand options for paying past or upcoming bills, or determine income eligibility for government relief.
If customers do get off-track, the information attained from the HEM experience can help identify at-risk households much earlier than with existing propensity-to-pay models. This is particularly valuable as the effects of the COVID pandemic continue to destabilize household finances. Some households will self-identify via direct requests for assistance; others will surface via analysis of user-set budgets and consumption trends. Early identification allows for programmatic interventions that ultimately reduce the burden on customers and the non-collectible revenues for utilities.
By augmenting existing relief and payment programs with greater intelligence, the utility can proactively prescribe the right remedy to break the Energy Burden Cycle. This single, engaging experience enables customers to see and control energy costs, shift to more advantageous rate plans, enroll in billing programs, and get assistance right at the moment it matters.
Ultimately, these benefits will reach far beyond the current situation caused by COVID-19. With more empowered and engaged customers, utilities can continue to extend new programs for additional savings, greater sustainability and higher customer satisfaction. Eventually they can offer a unified energy experience on the platform that includes renewables, rate programs and advanced DR initiatives that reduce peak loads and overall energy consumption.
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The economic impact of COVID-19 has caused many households to examine their expenses including energy costs. With more consumers working from home and homebound, U.S. residential energy consumption increased by 12% in March and April. Faced with rising energy bills and added income pressures, many households are actively seeking proactive solutions to keep costs in check.
Traditionally, most interactions between the utility and the customer have been reactive – occurring only when there is a billing issue or a power outage. While many utilities have extended financial assistance and support during the current crisis, energy management tools are still not widely available – leaving many households without a means to see when their energy spikes and stop bill surprises. Additionally, given the lack of mobile energy management tools, customer engagement remains low – amounting to approximately 20 minutes a year on average. However, some utilities, such as DTE Energy and AEP Ohio, have deployed home energy management solutions – enabling customers to proactively take charge of their energy usage. Through greater adoption of home energy management solutions, these utilities are driving:
Deeper Engagement – Delivering an average of 720 minutes per year – home energy management can deliver 36 times greater customer engagement than the typical utility does today.
Greater Program Adoption – With over 100 million interactions through the Powerley platform, utilities are turning daily engagement into personalized conversations that prescribe the right utility programs to the right customer at the right time.
Today, we see how energy management has become a lifeline, helping these utility customers make the most informed energy choices. Looking ahead, we see how utilities are tapping into this newfound level of engagement to expand the value proposition across the utility. Combining customer data with utility insights, we have identified three key trends that are driving the adoption of energy management – further highlighting how utilities are empowering customers with energy insight and control during times of hardship.
Learn More1. Home energy management demand is surging as customers seek to proactively manage energy
With more utility customers seeking to gain control over their energy costs, Powerley’s utility partners have witnessed a surge in the adoption of mobile home energy management solutions. The utilities that offer energy management solutions, such as DTE Energy and AEP Ohio, saw customer demand increase by 57% between March and May. In unison, engagement with energy management has tripled during this time as utility customers work to stop monthly bill surprises caused by changes in usage patterns.
2. Energy education, awareness and control are key to driving deeper engagement
Energy management has become a daily interaction, with users engaging on average 7 times per week across Powerley’s utility partner programs. Digging deeper into the customer experience, it appears that the uptick in engagement has been driven primarily by five key features – raising energy awareness, empowering customers with energy control, and enabling the automation of energy usage:
Keeping tabs on their Energy Budget: More households are creating and tracking energy budgets – with usage increasing by 78%.
Extending Energy Management to the Smart Home: More customers are connecting smart devices, like thermostats, smart plugs and light bulbs – with attach rates increasing by 45%.
Engaging with an Energy Advisor: Customers are seeking personalized advice to uncover and eliminate energy waste – with visits to Powerley Advisor increasing 34%.
Finding Room for Improvement: Customers are tracking how their actions are driving energy efficiency – with engagement in Energy Scores rising 30%.
Keeping Track of Energy Usage: More customers are tracking their whole-home energy usage to watch for energy spikes – with engagement in Energy Visualizations increasing 20%.
3. The smart home is enabling greater energy control
With households actively seeking ways to take control of their electric bill, Powerley’s utility customers have witnessed higher smart device attach rates in recent months. More customers are connecting smart devices, like thermostats, smart plugs and light bulbs – with attach rates climbing 45% in March and April alone.
With smart devices connected, utility customers are able to uncover energy waste – down to the appliance and device-level – while automating their homes to balance energy savings with personal comfort. This includes:
Checking their Always-on Load: According to Powerley data, devices like a cable box, gaming system, router and microwave have some of the highest always-on energy usage in the home. By using smart devices like plugs, customers can see how this always-on energy usage is adding to their bill and automate to save money.
Automating Efficiency: Not only are utility customers adding connected devices, they are also automating them as well – syncing device schedules with their own to balance energy efficiency with comfort while providing added peace-of-mind.
Optimizing Energy Costs: By automating high energy use appliances and devices, like EVs, to charge when energy rates are at their lowest, customers are able to save more on electricity without disrupting their routine.
The current crisis has highlighted the need for greater energy awareness and control. Utilities have taken notice of the uptick in energy management adoption. With energy management driving daily customer interactions, Powerley’s utility partners are seeing an opportunity to apply energy management to deepen their value proposition. Now, home energy management is empowering customers to take greater control over their energy and finances – reducing bill surprises, decreasing financial pressures, and for some households, avoiding last resort situations, like collections. With a more engaged audience, utilities are aiming to provide customers with an end-to-end home energy management solution to holistically manage their energy needs – from access to real-time consumption and billing data to budgeting, rate advice, personalized insights, and payment options. The need is present. The customer is engaging. And now, utilities are responding by extending energy management across the utility to provide personalized and proactive insight and support for every customer.
Half a century ago, 20 million people gathered to celebrate the first Earth Day. Fast-forward 50 years and Earth Day has matured from millions of people raising awareness of environmental issues to over a billion people taking action to actively reduce our global carbon footprint. Since 1970, environmental protection efforts have resulted in the reduction of pollutants in US waterways, enhancements to the Clean Air Act, and closing the hole in the world’s ozone layer. Despite this progress, the world still faces issues posed by climate change. As everyone stays closer to home in 2020, many people are considering how they can support environmental sustainability efforts this Earth Day from the safety of their homes.
Aside from putting solar panels on the roof, it’s not always clear how to change a household’s carbon footprint. Everything from the food on our shelves to the ink in our pens contributes to our carbon footprint. Even using the internet has a carbon cost. The challenges of reducing your carbon footprint can feel daunting, but they don’t have to. Utilities are making innovative strides to empower customers to reduce their carbon footprint from the comfort of their own homes. And it starts by transforming how electricity is generated, consumed, and controlled.
A Smarter Way to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
Technological innovation over the last decade has opened the door for us to reduce our homes’ carbon footprints. Renewable assets, smart home technology, and energy management are transforming how we invest in and interact with our homes. As utilities build more wind and solar farms, they need to better match electricity supply with demand. Solar production only occurs in the daylight hours. There may be too little—or too much—wind for wind turbines to turn. As a result, we have to use renewable energy as it’s produced or store it for later.
Now, a new way to shift demand in our homes is helping us overcome these challenges. Empowered by utilities, customers are automating their homes and energy consumption – giving households the chance to do their part to shift to a clean energy economy. By combining the smart home with energy management, customers can shift their usage to better match the supply of energy, especially renewable energy.
By using renewable energy as it’s produced, we can create a cleaner world. Smart home energy management aligns our consumption to the periods of time when intermittent sources like wind and solar can be utilized, empowering the production of more renewables. This greening of our energy can accelerate as more energy-aware smart devices become prevalent in the home.
Just imagine if you automated your HVAC to preheat or precool your home based on when solar resources were available. What if you tried using a smart plug to make your electric vehicle charge during the daylight hours, as opposed to at night? How about if you could instantly see when your highest energy use occurs? And even better, what if you could optimize your whole home’s electricity use to take advantage of renewable generation on the grid? The energy savings would be significant. Renewable adoption would increase. And you would decrease your household’s carbon footprint.
This Earth Day, we have the chance to work together as a global community to make a difference. This might mean planting a tree in your yard, installing a smart thermostat, or getting a full smart home energy management platform for your house. It even could be as simple as adding a smart plug to your dehumidifier and automating it to reduce always-on energy usage. Although reducing your household’s carbon footprint can take time, we have the technology, the resources, and the support of our energy providers to move towards a smarter, greener, and cleaner lifestyle. Let’s make a difference from a distance.
Thanks to a determined focus on energy efficiency over the last few decades, we turn lights off when we aren’t in the room, put a setback on our thermostat during the day and use home energy management to monitor our energy usage, all to help reduce our carbon footprint. Yet even with this heightened awareness around DIY energy efficiency, utility customers remain largely in the dark about their utility’s energy efficiency programs. Right now, energy efficiency programs are still largely siloed. They are promoted to customers as a one-size-fits-all program. The timing of these program promotions is based on the season, instead of when customers need it most. On top of this, since utilities are unable to get more visibility into customer behavior, these programs are promoted to every customer, making them costly to run.
But imagine if a utility could send the right message, about the right type of program, to someone who they know would benefit from that specific energy efficiency solution. The cost of the program would decrease, participation would skyrocket, and utilities could better invest those saved marketing dollars in another initiative. All they would need is a channel that has no competing noise, and the ability to target customers on an individualized level. And now, they do. A personalized, intelligent marketing tool, within the Powerley home energy management platform, is being implemented at utilities like DTE Energy and AEP Ohio – using home, energy and profile data to effectively promote efficiency programs to customers. And the results are spectacular!
Personalized, Intelligent, and Effective
What if you could automatically understand when a refrigerator was showing signs of needing replacement? How about if you could pinpoint which customers have the greatest need for a new air-conditioning unit? And, what if you could identify customers that consistently go over their energy budget? Think of the possibilities. You could introduce the right energy efficiency program, to the right customers, just when they need it most – anticipating their needs to drive greater program results.
Now, utilities are personalizing the conversation around their efficiency programs. And the key to all of this – data. By combining three types of household data, Powerley is creating an intelligent utility marketing engine. These data types include:
Real-Time Energy Data – Collecting whole-home energy data every 3 seconds to develop a base understanding of how much energy is being used throughout the home and when these spikes are occurring for each household.
Disaggregated Home and Energy Data – Reading real-time appliance and device energy signatures, our intelligent engine can then compare appliance and device energy usage in one home to what the norm should be, uncovering if a device or appliance isn’t functioning efficiently.
Behavioral Energy Data – Pinpointing what feature and how often each household engages in the Powerley platform, this intelligent marketing engine can then take into account the kind of efficiency programs to serve up to individuals.
Transforming these different energy signatures into a two-way conversation between utilities and their customers, Powerley is introducing utility energy efficiency programs at the optimal time and to the right people. These energy efficiency programs include:
Appliance Recycling Program – Using both hardware and software disaggregation, utilities were able to compare a refrigerator’s consumption to what a healthy refrigerator consumes. With a real-time view of the energy consumption of the refrigerator, Powerley can tell when the appliance is using more energy than usual and in need of repair or replacement.
Water Heater Rebate Program – Using the same method, utilities uncovered households that specifically had electric water heaters that were underperforming. Accessing their engaged user base within the app, utilities were able to deliver a rebate offer through the app at just the right time.
AC Tune-Up and Rebate Program – Utilizing HVAC disaggregation data, Powerley was able to identify previously engaged smart home energy management app users at utilities who had air-conditioning units that weren’t using energy efficiently. With that insight, the utilities were able to offer a $50 AC tune-up rebate and $400 AC replacement offers through the app to the right people.
Powerley has created a new channel to directly engage the customer right where they communicate most – their smartphone, engaging them 9X times per week on average. By tapping into these interactions the utilities have seen a doubling of enrollment in their programs – as promotions are reworked into personalized advice about home efficiency. Increasing traffic to these programs by as much as 150% and ramping up the click rates to 20%, utilities are seeing an amazing uptick in engagement. This is especially good when taking into consideration that the average click-through-rate for search ads in the energy and utility sector is only 1.56% (WordStream).
Together with utilities, Powerley is helping to create a holistic energy efficiency experience. Intelligently empowered and informed, utilities are creating a deeper connection with their customers through home and energy insights. While electrical generation and distribution have been the lifeblood of utilities, it is data that could become the utilities’ greatest asset in the future. And as utilities continue to foray into providing more smart home and energy experiences, these energy and home data insights that utilities are gaining have the opportunity not only to optimize the whole home, but other utility programs as well.
Utilities have an immense opportunity today to take their customer relationships to the next level. Even more encouraging, their customers want more from the relationship. Building on the deep-seated trust that has been carefully cultivated over the past 100 years, we can transform electrons into a new experience and turn a transactional relationship into something much more personal. By tapping into the connections within the home and with customers, utilities can go beyond the meter to create a personalized, two-way conversation via customer energy data.
But how are utilities planning on moving beyond monthly engagement to interactions that extend throughout the day? As with any relationship that starts to get more serious, utilities and customers have to learn how to navigate this new level of intimacy and engage with each other in ways that help it blossom.
5 Stages of Your Energy Relationship
Starbucks has shown us that a brand can become a major part of our daily routine by transforming a commodity into an experience. Amazon has demonstrated how an “online book retailer” can turn a transactional relationship into much more – as millions have invited Amazon into their households to power-on their smart homes. And now, it’s the utilities’ turn.
While the electricity in the relationship has always been there, flowing through our homes, powering our life, it is finally able and ready to do more…. much more. Utilities are following a 5-step energy journey (0-4) to court their customers – moving beyond the bill to become a lifelong partner by introducing customers to the power and potential of their home and energy.
Stage 0: A One-Way Relationship
Like a friend who only contacts you when there’s a problem, or when they need to borrow something, the relationships at this stage are very one-directional. Many utilities find themselves in this stage today – reacting to negative issues that are affecting customers as opposed to promoting a positive ongoing dialogue. This could be anything from addressing issues with a specific bill to fielding a call about a power outage. While utilities are very focused on fixing these issues, the interaction is typically infrequent and temporary. Rather than a two-way dialogue, Stage 0 is not conversational, but transactional.
Stage 1: Engagement Starts with Understanding
All relationships start with trying to get a deeper understanding of one another. In the case of your utility, that means getting to know your energy better – going beyond the bill to understand how your home uses electricity and where it’s potentially wasting it. At the heart of this new relationship is access to energy data that is being used to:
Make energy more attractive – Whether it’s historical or real-time, energy usage data is made easier to understand and more appealing.
Provide instantaneous access – Empowering you with anytime-anywhere access to energy insights, along with the real-time data so you can see the immediate impact of your actions.
Understand where this is headed – Helping you create an energy budget that shows you how your actions can impact their energy goals.
It is here at Stage 1 that this new relationship starts to grow and increase in engagement substantially – moving from a monthly bill-based relationship to the beginning of a daily dialogue. This two-way exchange is unlocking more value for the utility and the customer, driving a 4-8% increase in energy savings (Powerley App Data). But now that the initial infatuation with energy has set in, it is time to get a little more personal.
Stage 2: Turning into a Trusted Advisor
At this stage of the relationship, utilities make the shift from an information provider to a trusted advisor – helping customers fix those “little imperfections” that they never noticed before. Even more so, they can take corrective actions based on personalized advice from their utility to:
Recognize the drains on your relationship – Suddenly you see that your refrigerator is using much more energy than it should, your always-on energy usage is much higher than you believed, and your EV is charging during peak rate times.
Correct damaging behavior – By seeing and acknowledging these energy drains in real-time, you can keep yourself on budget and correct these problems before it impacts your monthly bill.
Provide peace-of-mind – Now, you can tap into real-time energy data to keep an eye on your home – getting alerts when there is an energy spike, or when something in your home is malfunctioning.
Here customers and the utility have a clear picture of how energy is being used and abused by appliances and devices. This stage goes beyond energy information alone, establishing a more personal bond with energy insight and guidance. This is opening the door to more than daily engagement while delivering an 8-9% energy savings (Powerley Energy Data). And, by taking advantage of these invaluable insights from the utility, you can work together to achieve mutual home and energy goals.
Stage 3: Creating Deeper Connections
With a connection to every home and every consumer, utilities are in a prime position to drive a deeper relationship beyond energy alone. Not only are they connected to more homes today than the largest tech companies in the world, utilities are more trusted too. In this stage of the relationship, utilities take these connections further – bridging the smart grid to the smart home. In doing so, they empower customers not only with energy insight, but also by giving them direct control to cut their carbon footprints and their energy bills. By integrating energy intelligence into the smart home, the utility is:
Empowering customers with energy control – Now you can see how much energy every connected device across the smart home – thermostats, bulbs, plugs, and more – are using in real-time and take complete control of energy consumption.
Telling you when something is wrong – Using a smart plug on your appliances you now can get notified if you left your stove on, or if your coffee maker never shut off, and even get a way fix it.
Customizing your connected home – Giving you personalized suggestions to create your own energy-driven smart home to save more energy – such as adding a smart plug to your Xbox to see how much gaming is costing you and control it.
Here, utilities are truly taking the relationship to the next level with engagement throughout the day while driving as much as 10% in energy savings (Powerley Data)! But that’s not the end of it. We still have stage 4 – and it is reshaping the relationship.
Stage 4: Providing a Little Life Assistance
At this stage, the relationship between the utility and their customer has reached a new level – turning a commodity into an experience that can be switched to “autopilot” to deliver more value throughout the day. Through interaction and automation, the utility can reshape their relationship with their customers and their business.
It’s like having a partner who truly ‘knows you’. A partner that can anticipate your needs – making life a little easier, safer and more enjoyable. By infusing smart home technology with energy intelligence, utilities are helping their customers create an autonomous home that:
Make you more comfortable – Cranking up the heat on a cold winter’s day when you are on your commute home, or adjusting the home’s temperature based on the weather ahead.
Help you be more secure – Turning on the walkway lights right at dusk to make sure your entryway is illuminated when you get home, or switching on the “vacation lights” setting automatically while you are out of town.
Looks out for your safety – Shutting off the stove or lights after you forgot to turn them off as you ran out the door to your appointment
Saves money on your bill – Automatically having your EV charge when you are at an off-peak rate, or when other major appliances are not in operation.
Here, we have gotten to a level of comfort where you can put your relationship on autopilot, trusting in your utility to coordinate operations within your home and with your energy. This type of deep and trusting partnership has the potential to save 10%+ on energy. While total coordination of our energy and home is starting to come about in many ways, we still aren’t totally there yet. But when we do get there, it will be utility-customer relationships like these that will pave the way to customers saying ‘I do’ to a truly autonomous home and energy experience.
Customers want more from their relationship with their utility. Together, Powerley and our utility partners have delivered an experience that has led to 100 million engagements between customers and their utility. Creating a more sustainable future for us all, this new relationship is reducing demand, elevating satisfaction and promoting sustainability. And all of this stems from the ability to engage us in a new relationship with our energy.
As we enter a new decade, it’s time to reflect on the advances the energy industry made in the past year and discuss what lies ahead in 2020. Utilities are accelerating innovation, delivering new connected services and solutions to their customers. Through this connectivity, customers are managing distributed energy resources, tapping into time-of-use rates, and connecting electric vehicles. For utilities, this connectivity continues to strengthen customer relationships – driving deeper engagement while helping utilities expand their role. As this transformation within the energy industry continues to speed up, it makes you wonder, what changes will 2020 bring to the utility and energy industry?
To give us some insight, we asked a panel of industry insiders to give us their predictions for the year ahead –
Tim Mosley – Senior Program Manager, BC Hydro
Jennifer Szaro – Vice President of Research, Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA)
Nathan Shannon – Deputy Director, Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative (SECC)
Christopher Moyer – Director of Content and Research, Zpryme
1. How do you think new technology (i.e home energy management, DR platforms, residential solar, battery, smart home devices) will shape utility transformation in 2020?
Tim Mosley, Sr. Program Manager, BC Hydro: Customers are adopting a great deal of new technology like smart speakers, smart thermostats, smart plugs and other smart devices. They are buying this technology left, right, and center. Smart home technology is opening the door to a new engagement and communication channel for utilities. Utilities have to figure out the best way to leverage it. The smart home device manufacturers can offer the convenience and core functionality of the devices themselves, but it is utilities that are able to elevate that smart home value proposition by providing energy consumption data and analytics. Our secret sauce is our ability to provide users or manufacturers with personalized energy management insights, which are really brought to life by this technology. We are in the position now to make energy management interesting, relatable and even more accessible to customers through platforms with smart home technology. I expect to see more and more utilities utilizing smart home technology in 2020 as a way to engage and empower customers to make good energy choices.
Jennifer Szaro, VP of Research, SEPA: In 2020, I see eMobility as a big game changer and as something that will affect existing utility business processes, grid systems, and grid controls. More utilities will either recommend, directly market, or utilize 3rd party platforms to market home energy systems and smart home devices to their customers. As a result, utilities will gain a larger percentage of their customers enrolled in DR programs, innovative rate programs, and home energy efficiency programs enabled by these systems and devices. Furthermore, utilities will engage in technology partnerships inclusive of start-ups to achieve technology innovation that helps motivate the customer to decarbonize their home footprint. Some of this technology will be predictive analytics for stronger targeting and marketing efforts by utilities, while other technology will be directed at home devices or services. Utilities will pursue innovation in a way that requires involvement much earlier in the hype cycle for new technology and service opportunities – whereby traditional utility technology thought-leadership processes took a wait-and-see perspective.
Nathan Shannon, Deputy Director, SECC: New technology, including smart home devices and digital platforms, will increasingly come into its own as a channel for engaging consumers. Over 60 percent of Americans now have smart meters and the digital capabilities that those bring, and voice assistants and smart thermostats have considerably more market penetration than just one or two years ago. This technology allows electricity providers to meet consumers where they are and, if utilized appropriately, can help boost engagement and satisfaction.
Christopher Moyer, Senior Director of Research and Content, Zpryme: Customer-centric technologies impacting the utility industry are not new, but 2020 will bring a convergence of solar, battery, and energy management systems that will speed up transformation. Forward-looking utilities must move quickly to create programs that incentive customers using all three of these services within a grid-centric marketplace. This will simultaneously drive up customer satisfaction and ensure reliability on the more distributed grid.
2. What do you think will be the biggest change(s) in 2020 for the utility as they continue to shift to a more customer-centric focus?
Tim Mosley, Sr Program Manager, BC Hydro: Right now, utilities are in the midst of a great deal of transformation that is being propelled forward by customer adoption of new technology. This technology ranges from EV’s, to new heating systems, to smart home tech. To be able to take full advantage of this technology and engage customers through it, utilities will start prioritizing the deployment of the necessary IT infrastructure to securely exchange data between the utility, the consumer and the technology companies. Customers expect a frictionless experience in all their transactions these days. Dealing with a utility is no exception. For example, using digital voice assistants to conduct transactions or get billing information in a few seconds rather than spending time on the call center phone line or having the complexity of logging-in and searching via a web browser. To make this frictionless requires proven and secure user authentication software and IT infrastructure that utilities will need to invest in.
Jennifer Szaro, VP of Research, SEPA: As we move into 2020, I expect to see greater exploration and implementation of new business models in response to new technologies, regulatory expectations, and expanding customer awareness and participation. Utilities will develop home energy storage and home EV charging integration processes and systems to minimally monitor them. Increasing focus will be placed on using these assets to provide grid services. Utilities will continue to engage with governments and agencies on local efforts to decarbonize regions through a multitude of ‘smart community’ initiatives, including electric vehicle charging, smart lighting, storage applications, emergency sensors, etc. Utility community engagement efforts will be heightened beyond traditional government affairs interactions covering workforce development, construction, and give-back campaigns.
Nathan Shannon, Deputy Director, SECC: The biggest change for electricity providers will be the continued cultural transformation to an organization that is truly customer-centric. This means a lot of internal changes for providers, including new metrics for measuring customer success and the reorganization of existing departments and the creation of new customer-centric teams. Some providers are also increasingly adding chief customer officer roles to have a customer-centric voice in the C-suite.
Christopher Moyer, Senior Director of Research and Content, Zpryme: 2020 will see the acceleration of strategic decarbonization plans. While policy and regulation kickstarted this change, utilities are eager to meet customer demand for cleaner power and that will mean more energy efficiency and more renewables.
3. What do you think is the biggest change that NEEDS to occur within the utility or energy industry in 2020?
Tim Mosley, Sr Program Manager, BC Hydro: In 2020, utilities really need to be able to align utility time scales with new technology products. Utilities have always been more cautious when it comes to change and implement new technology and infrastructure. In contrast, technology lifecycles move very quickly. Products come and go at a very fast rate. Utilities have a hard time keeping up with this flux and therefore find it more challenging to pick the right products to invest in or leverage. How can we know if a product or company will be around in one year’s time, let alone 10 years? And if they are around, will customers still want the product by the time it is fully implemented? We need to get to grips with technology like DERMs, batteries, and consumer-facing smart energy technology like Powerley – and I think we have definitely started down that path.
Jennifer Szaro, VP of Research, SEPA: Over the next year, we will need to see an evolution of the regulatory structures and processes to more easily accommodate new technology and new utility business models. Utilities need to ramp up investment in control and coordination technologies (DERMS, ADMS, SCADA) and system integration to allow customer adoption of new technologies where they are now utility capability constrained. Additionally, utilities will need to embrace new service platforms directly through planning paradigms and forecasting techniques that value distributed generation at the operations level, not just in asset management and forecasting.
Nathan Shannon, Deputy Director, SECC: While electricity providers have made strides in being more customer-centric in recent years, there’s still a lot of opportunity for improvement. SECC’s consumer research has shown that consumers are ready for new offerings for their providers – including alternative rates, smart home technology, mobile apps and more – but participation is still somewhat low in many instances. For 2020, providers should focus on education and awareness of new program offerings, especially to eco-conscious and tech-savvy consumer segments that are considerably more interested in them.
Christopher Moyer, Senior Director of Research and Content, Zpryme: The biggest change utilities need to make is a move towards 100% decarbonized energy, but this is a generational challenge. It is unreasonable to expect that January 2021 will see the grid be powered only by solar, wind, and hydro. However, utilities can make significant progress towards decarbonization by changing how they engage with their customers. Utilities need to help their customers understand power, how they are using it, and how they can contribute to decarbonized energy future.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Tim Mosley, Sr Program Manager, BC Hydro
Tim is the Sr. Program Manager for Advanced DSM strategies at BC Hydro. Currently, he is working on the development of programs related to IoT and smart home technologies with the sole intent of providing better energy management tools for the 4 million customers of BC Hydro. With the smart home revolution having brought many new technologies and service providers to the forefront, Mosley’s role is focused on developing new partnerships, alliances and promotional programs that leverage this exciting new world.
Jennifer Szaro, VP of Research, SEPA
Jennifer currently leads SEPA’s research and education programs. Her research areas for SEPA includes: solar, electric vehicles, microgrids, demand response, energy IoT integration, energy storage, regulatory innovation, stakeholder engagement strategies, and DER integration technologies.
Nathan Shannon, Deputy Director, SECC
Nathan came on as Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative’s Deputy Director in early 2015. In this role, he is responsible for advancing a consumer-friendly, consumer-safe smart grid through research and education. Along with his work on the Research and Policy committees, Nathan also leads member recruitment and engagement and routinely presents SECC research at major industry conferences and policy workshops.
Christopher Moyer, Senior Director of Research and Content, Zpryme
As the Senior Director of Research and Content at Zpryme, Christopher leads a passionate team that produces breakthrough content on the transformation of the energy and utility industries to a more digital, environmentally sustainable and customer-centric future. This research is centered around digitalization, decentralization, and decarbonization of physical infrastructure — including energy, water, transportation, and communications.
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