Winning in a more distributed energy world: 3 steps to utility success
A billion-dollar retail opportunity awaits utilities that turn reluctant customers into partners.
In the U.S. power system’s transformation, customers’ traditional dependence on utilities is increasingly becoming a utility dependence on customers.
This reversal is driven by diminishing electricity sales caused in part by the rising reliability and affordability of customer-owned distributed energy resources (DER) and energy efficiency technologies. Forward-thinking utilities see billions of dollars in potential new revenue streams in customer demand for these retail market products. But while vendors like Sunrun and Tesla are seeing increasing business with their home solar and storage products, utilities face the challenge of reluctant, or “selectively engaged,” customers.
Over 40% of utility customers are considered selectively engaged because they are unlikely to respond to utilities’ online and digital marketing, a January Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative report found. More engaged customers, motivated by environmental or pocketbook concerns, are increasingly responding to new and traditional forms of utility messaging.
“We are moving away from an industry where the kWh was the commodity and the customer just paid the bill,” SECC CEO Patty Durand told Utility Dive. “We are moving into a new world where the utility needs to know what customers value so it can offer them products and services and become their partner.”
The monthly bill remains most customers’ main contact with utilities, but most would like electricity providers to show them “choices that align with their personal priorities,” an August 2018 SECC customer survey found. In response, many utilities are using new digital approaches to customer engagement.