From Scott Carlberg

Electricity is going from a mass produced to personal service. Making and delivering electricity is already mighty sophisticated as a business, and electric companies must still technologically up their game.

“Two-thirds of businesses recognize their company must digitize by 2020 in order to stay competitive,” said CNBC. The story was about Ford, P&G, and GE, not about power companies. The digital challenge is especially true of power companies, though. Electricity symbolizes technology. Power customers expect their power company interface to be as easy as using iTunes or amazon. As individualized, too. “Create personalized communication journeys,” is how CNBC said it.

Xcel Energy site about smart meters

While the desired end result is the same, the journey is different for utilities versus new tech firms. “Electric utilities have the reputation of being too conservative when it comes to adopting new technology. Changing business drivers, such as increasing demand, electric vehicles (EVs), sustainability and resiliency, and smart devices are forcing utilities to change the status quo. Renewables with wind and solar, and battery storage are forcing utilities to transform from a rigid linear company to smart decentralized systems with distributed energy resources.” (Source)

Changing a hundred-year-old electric system while it is operating has challenges. I heard it described as putting a new engine in a car while it’s going 70 mph. Apple and amazon started from scratch.

Changing a system that is well-established and in operation also costs. No free lunch.

Alabama Power billing site

Digital transformations are happening around the country, creating new customer service savings and flexibility. For example (Source):

  • Houston Public Works streamlined internal processes
  • Central Hudson Gas & Electric (NY) created a self-service platform
  • Alabama Power simplified billing
  • Xcel Energy (Minnesota/Wisconsin) invested in smart meters

What might customers expect in their electric experience in the future?

  • Do-it-yourself options: Home and business technologies that help make, monitor, and save energy.
  • Corporate control: The ability to let the power company manage some of your energy usage in exchange for price breaks.
  • Pilot tests: Expect energy companies to test-out new ideas before those ideas go mainstream. Homeowners may have the chance to be test pilots.

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Feature image taken from Duke Energy media gallery