Excuse me, Which Way is the Distributed Energy Store?
Creating a distributed energy market requires a lot of thought, a little bit of daring, and tremendous peace-keeping skills — as shown in New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV).
But more than anything else, a distributed energy market requires customers. Customers who know they are customers. The kind that stand in line at grocery stores or frequent the Amazon.com shopping cart.
The highly regulated electric utility industry doesn’t have this kind of customer. Its customers are the passive sort. We not so much buy, as receive electricity. We think it comes from our walls. As a result, it’s a product that we take for granted and use indiscriminately — which leads to waste.
So ultimately after all of the tariff changes, platform innovations, and new acronym formulations — all of the work to build the new distributed energy market — today’s energy reformers must wake up this Rip Van Winkle customer. They have to point him, tottering and groggy, to the store — to the microgrids, community solar, learning thermostats, and other products entering the market. And they have to show him their value.
It’s not going to be easy. And it’s where innovators need to focus next.
That was an underlying message delivered last week by policymakers and innovators participating in REV4NY Exchange, a state-sponsored conference that drew 350 people to New York City and 1,700 online viewers from around country.
“What do we need to do to make it very easy for consumers to transact? And what do we have to do to make it very easy for distribution energy resource providers to find consumers?” said Audrey Zibelman, who chairs the New York Public Service Commission and is a chief architect of REV.
Amazon and Apple Style
The state has been mulling the idea of an Amazon.com-like portal where consumers could purchase distributed energy products. But ultimately, Zibelman sees private companies, not the state, waking up the customer.