E Source Blog
Welcome to the E Source Blog! Our staff will share insights and observations about life at E Source, our events, our research, and other fun stuff.
Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are varied and abundant, but that same variety is one of the main stumbling blocks utilities have encountered in engaging these customers. What a mobile game design shop needs will be completely different than what a martial arts studio or microbrewery needs. And because SMBs don’t have dedicated account reps, they’re often forgotten. In fact, in the utility industry, these customers were dubbed the forgotten middle or the frozen middle as utilities focused on engaging residential consumers and large businesses to participate in programs. Thankfully, it seems that the tide has turned!
Websites continue to change to keep up with technology and meet our needs as customers. This means that businesses have to quickly adapt to seemingly capricious expectations while still maintaining base functionality. We recently finished the review phase of the E Source Review of North American Electric and Gas Company Residential Websites: 2015. We looked at tens of common features that customers expect to find on utility websites. At this year’s E Source Forum, we’ll be hosting a session called “Can You Find It? A Best-Practice Guide to Redesigning Websites” that will provide an overview of what utility websites look like now, what customers expect from the sites when they’re online, and how utilities can redesign their websites for the future.
Find out about some of the weird and wonderful smart devices and gadgets that we’ve enjoyed reading about over the past year. Although these products don’t necessarily have much to do with energy efficiency, all are wirelessly enabled, can be controlled through a mobile app or web portal, and are either currently for sale or available for preorder. Most came to fruition through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, and seem to be natural (if occasionally bizarre) extensions of the developing smart home industry.
We hear a lot about sports arenas that have switched their metal halide lighting to LEDs and have, as a result, saved money and improved the viewing experience. But what about smaller outdoor sports fields that don’t see quite the same amount of action as larger fields do? Are LEDs the solution? The answer might not surprise you. But the reasons for it will.
Last month we celebrated Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day here at E Source. Nine lucky recruits arrived bright and early with their E Source parents. I could tell that most of them were anticipating a day of doodles and dodgeball, but we had other plans for these energy-efficiency hopefuls. They would soon learn that a day of work at E Source can be as challenging as it is rewarding.
The utility industry isn’t threatened by a disruptive technology, but by a disruptive idea: that it’s incumbent on utilities to provide free storage and backup services to solar panel owners. The main manifestation of this idea is net metering, and it’s the law of the land in 44 states. In most of those states, utilities are actively challenging the rules, but many solar advocates object to any effort to tamper with the terms of net metering. How do we get to the bottom of this argument? How do we calmly and rationally decide how to fairly split up the benefits—and costs—of grid-connected solar panels between utilities and homeowners? The answer is, we don’t.
The word “experience” comes from the Latin experientia, meaning “knowledge gained by repeated trials.” Do we want customers to be forced into perilous situations in order to engage with us? Repeatedly? An omnichannel perspective can help mollify these dangers and improve the customer experience (CX).
Some predict that lithium-ion batteries will become so cheap that homeowners and businesses will combine the technology with equally inexpensive solar panels and go off the grid. The scenario seems unlikely, given that the solar panel and battery system required to power a self-reliant home would have to contain lots of extra panels and batteries that would rarely get used. But the debunking of this myth doesn’t dispel all of the utility’s fears.
Many of my colleagues and most of our utility members find value in behavioral programs to encourage customers to use energy more efficiently, but I’ve always been a doubter. After all, I’m an engineer—I actually understand how these technologies work. So imagine my disbelief when I recently got a home energy report that said my efficiency was just “good.” Would the injustice prompt me to make energy-saving behavior changes?