Dealing with the realities of deregulated utility markets

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Electric utilities have to adapt to changing generating patterns while trying to create new kinds of relationships with customers. It isn’t an easy situation.

While many companies have had to deal with changing business models over the last 10 or 20 years, electric utilities have had some very serious challenges. Generation methods, distributed energy resources, grid management, industry consolidation, changing regulations, and environmental pressures have all contributed to the difficulty. Now the whole picture of relating to customers is also changing.

With the ability to add generating capacity severely limited, demand management and energy efficiency has become a major part of the picture, even down to individual residential users. Commercial and industrial users have already made major steps toward new energy efficiency methods, leaving residential users as the final frontier. This has made demand for energy efficiency products and solutions a critical element of a utility’s strategy for reaching individual customers.

Schneider Electric has been providing technologies for energy management for many years, and utilities can benefit from working with a partner that offers such a depth of experience as utilities move into this new territory of residential demand management. So how does a utility reach into individual residences? Only a few years ago, the thought would have seemed hugely impractical, but new technologies provide new ways.

As Yann Kulp explains, a whole new range of demand response and energy efficiency solutions, included in the Wiser solution, is making demand management at an individual home or apartment far more practical if utilities are willing to reconsider their traditional ways of engaging with those customers. That relationship has not always been great, and utilities are beginning to realize that they have to make the first moves in reaching out to customers. Such a critical first move can be offering household demand management and energy efficiency programs using the Wiser solution.

Kulp recounts some of the initial efforts to add smart metering and similar efforts that yielded mixed results for customers at high costs. Customers simply didn’t see any value and chose not to participate. The approach now for utilities is finding more cost-effective methods to manage demand in a way that customers will engage with more actively. They’re looking for ways to add value for customers, and this is where Wiser comes into play. Wiser solutions are simple for utilities to implement, very cost effective, and appealing to customers. When combined with a billing mechanism that rewards customers for curtailing demand during peak periods, creating behavioral change is not that difficult.

All the Wiser utility demand management, innovative hardware, engaging user apps and behavioral tools are designed to work together to provide a complete package for utilities to deploy and customers to use on a daily basis.

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