The Utility of the Future – Tuning into New Opportunities

Posted by on October 25, 2017

Last week, we held our annual user group, gathering more than 40 representatives from 12 utilities including Exelon, SMUD, PG&E, PHI, FPL and others.

Among the featured customer presentations and networking was a talk given by our beloved data scientist, Mel Gehrs. Mel kicked off the event by talking about the Utility of the Future, which sparked lots of dialogue among the attendees. Mel discussed the dynamic business challenges that utilities face today, shared key market trends and brought a different perspective on what the future holds for today’s utility organizations.

One of the most challenging areas, according to Mel, will be adapting to the needs and expectations of the future workforce, the millennials and centennials. When Mel asked how many people in the room researched their utility organization and culture on Glassdoor, a majority of attendees answered “no”. Mel shared the millennial view, the next generation of industry leaders who like to feel empowered when they are looking for job opportunities and choose what seems most compelling to them. Companies like Glassdoor have given everyone the ability to anonymously and transparently post feedback about the organization, for potential candidates and employees to learn more and tap into the workplace. This two-way, digitalization has truly transformed the way millennials make decisions today and it is critically important for the future of utilities to understand the needs and preferences of this generation.

Next, Mel highlighted that another area of opportunity is how utilities engage with their customers. Many utility executives have identified the importance of knowing their customers, but how does this comprehension occur? Mel pointed out that smart meters capture detailed hourly usage data on all commercial and industrial customers. Using advanced analytics, utilities have the capability to identify energy signatures, develop response algorithms and actively identify equipment failures, helping to provide timely alerts to customers. For example, in the energy signatures matrix below, the clustering algorithm has identified a potential equipment failure and excessive usage of energy early in the morning due to a poorly managed store inventory.

Mel continued to emphasize on how utilities can optimize customer engagement with not just smart homes, but also with businesses. Business organizations come in different forms and types, which differentiates their level of energy usage. Utilities are now able to leverage the power of data from Silver Spring’s analytics solutions and translate it to drive better customer engagement and create new value for these businesses. As technology becomes more sophisticated and as expectations continue to rise from the digital generation, smart meters can provide concierge services by enabling utilities to rethink their relationship with customers and better meet their needs.

The call is clear for the utilities to embrace these changes and find opportunities that would appeal to the millennial workforce of the future and ultimately establish a closer relationship with their customers.