The future of energy demand management.

Jeff came downstairs from a pleasant night’s sleep to find his family at the breakfast table finishing their cereal. This was the start of a typical July Saturday: breakfast with the kids, errands, and yard work.
 
Today's list of errands included a stop at the hardware store: Jeff’s friend Mark suggested they attend an efficiency program demo performed by the local electric utility.   While Jeff had always seen himself as "green", he wasn't aware of any programs offered by the utility and thought he could save some money and save some energy.
 
Jeff and his two sons prepared for the trip his older son, Jeremy called out “Shotgun!” as he unplugged the car.   Jason, the younger boy grabbed 3 bottles of water from the garage fridge, the door squeaked and motor protested in its old age. 
 
At the store, the utility had set up a few booths on how to sign up for a web-based tool that will help them monitor, in real time, their current electricity usage.  They also saw a demonstration of how they could, using their mobile phones, remotely turn off the lights, adjust the water pump on the pool as well as the adjust the programmable thermostat.  And all this was made possible through the new smart meter installed last year. 

Despite not being the most tech savvy or web savvy guy, Jeff signed up for the online portal and home area network display on the spot.  He figured it would give the kids something to be proud of managing and might even save him some money!
 
As Jeff continued to discuss his enrollment with his utility rep he learned that he could save some money by signing up for a ”Time of Use” rate program – he’d heard about this on the radio seen something about it on TV, but hearing answers to his questions immediately helped him make his decision.   Jeff decided he was going to enroll in the program, he set up alerts on his energy consumption, and activated "opt-out" alerts for when the utility could "cycle" his air conditioner.  Jeff looked over to see his boys captivated by a demonstration of a home energy audit – he could tell they were excited to try this when they got home. 

As Jeff completed his enrollment, he walked over to the boys who immediately unloaded all the new knowledge they had just gained on him.  Excited by the boy’s enthusiasm, Jeff challenged his sons. "OK boys, you're in charge of lowering the energy bill," Jeff said. "You've got three months. I'll pay you what we save."
 
Never ones to turn down cash contests, the boys were thrilled with the opportunity Dad had just laid out for them.  They cornered the utility rep barraging him with questions.  As the rep talked with the boys, they learned that they could do the following to meet their dad’s challenge:

  • Put CFL's in all their lamps and overhead lights
  • Install motion sensors/timers on the security lights that are on all night.
  • Turn off all computers and when they were not in use
  • Hook up the Xbox® and Blue-Ray® player to a surge protector and turn it off when not in use.
  • Use their programmable thermostat to automatically adjust the temperature based on time of day
  • Integrate with their new load control device that was recently installed to cycle their AC and pool pump.
  • Remove or replace the garage refrigerator and take advantage of a utility rebate.

Jeff and his family immediately noticed changes in their energy usage behavior.  The boys were turning off lights, computers and video games when they weren’t using them.  Jeff noticed that he especially liked being able to control his thermostat from his mobile phone.

A few days after Jeff and the boys enrolled in the Time of Use program, Jeff received a text message from the utility - Jeff was in the parking lot of the grocery story with supplies for Jason's 10th birthday party.  The utility wanted to cycle his air conditioner due to peak demand.  Since he was planning a house full of people, he decided that air conditioning was worth the extra cost.  He texted back “NO” but was aware that he was paying premium energy rates for the luxury.  Jeff thought to himself, any other day he might have let them cycle his central air.
 
Three months had passed since visiting the store.  At dinner, Jeff proudly announced that the boys had been successful with their task!  In fact, in the last three months, they had saved over $90 on their energy bill.   With his good news, Jeff presented each boy with $45.   

Flash back to present day.

As your utility plans to roll out smart grid and AMI, it is important to keep your customers at top of mind.  Without the buy-in and enrollment of your customers, many of the business cases supporting smart grid energy reduction are negated.  To drive true transformation around your smart grid initiative, it is imperative that utility customer communication and demand side management are priorities for your utility.

In our story, Jeff was influenced by multiple channels of communication, the most salient being word of mouth.  As utilities move customers up the communication maturity model, the ultimate goal is to have your customers be your largest marketing tool.  Learn more about what you can do presently to provide your customers – and your business case – the success portrayed above.