By Bennett Fisher, CEO & Co-founder, Retroficiency
The historical utility business model can best be summed up in three steps: 1) determine the correct demand for energy; 2) build power plants to meet that demand; and 3) collect a pre-determined rate of return on said power plant. But many utilities are beginning to recognize a paradigm shift. Utilities face new realities across multiple fronts: customers who expect more timely and relevant service; regulators that seek alternatives to building new infrastructure to meet load growth; and even competitive threats such as on-site generation. The result is that utilities are moving to a sales, marketing and service delivery approach that looks more like a competitive enterprise than a highly regulated, one-size-fits all entity. These efforts are designed to be more proactive and customer oriented. CIOs must be a key part of this transition. A more nimble utility requires access to data and insights across the enterprise to make better decisions in real-time. This data could come from the grid, from customer interactions, enterprise applications or third-party sources. This shift is already happening every day in energy efficiency, where data analytics and models are empowering utilities to move smarter and faster. Namely, utilities are using insights in three key areas: to tap new segments of customers for efficiency projects, improve their delivery processes and offer more comprehensive solutions.
Unlocking new segments Historically, utilities knew very little about their customers — all they needed to know was how much energy they used and where to send the bill. But utilities now realize that different customers have different needs and ways they want to interact. To better understand their customers and tailor interactions with them, utilities are focusing on data-driven segmentation efforts. For efficiency efforts, this involves determining their efficiency potential based on existing savings opportunities and other characteristics that may make them more or less likely to participate. Segmentation is critical for small and medium sized business (SMB) customers, for example. Most utilities I speak with say that this is a class of customers that they struggle to penetrate.