Q:How are utilities using voice-assistance skills such as with Amazon’s Alexa to help customers accomplish their tasks?

A:Virtual voice assistant devices such as Amazon’s Alexa are increasingly popular. According to data from the 2017 E Source Residential Utility Customer Survey, 27% of US residential customers report owning a smart speaker and 32% are considering purchasing one in the next 12 months. These devices offer a creative way for you to connect with customers, and several forward-thinking utilities are using Alexa skills to help customers with tasks such as making a payment or getting energy-saving tips.

By enabling the Alliant Energy skill, customers can learn how to save energy, which will in turn save them money. From Alliant:

Want to learn ways to save money on your utility bill? Alliant Energy is here to help! With the Alliant Energy skill, you can learn many different and easy ways to save on your energy usage, which can result in lower energy bills. And who doesn’t want to save both energy and money?

To get started, just say, ‘Alexa, ask Alliant Energy how I can save energy.’ You’ll hear a useful tip, and will then be asked if you’d like to hear more.

The Green Mountain Energy skill also offers energy-saving suggestions, including an “eco-friendly tip of the day.”

Reliant Energy’s skill allows users to:

  • Check their account balance
  • Review their payment history
  • Get plan details

With the TXU Energy skill, customers can:

  • Check their account balance
  • Make a payment
  • Get tips for saving energy
  • Get the utility’s phone number

An additional skill, TXU iThermostat, allows users to control their utility-provided smart thermostat.

Just Energy’s skill “allows existing Just Energy (TX only) customers to ask for their bill details and access multiple accounts. It also allows user[s] to ask Just Energy for a random energy fact or how to contact us.”

National Grid Facts provides the energy mix (the percentage of coal, natural gas, hydro, wind, solar, and so forth used to generate power) for any state in the US. Users can also ask which state or region generates the most power from each source.

Think building a skill is out of reach for your utility? Representatives from Amazon discussed Alexa skill development at the E Source Utility MarCom Executive Council in April 2018. Although Alexa skill development requires no coding knowledge—it’s meant to be a platform where anyone can learn how to create a skill—Amazon maintains an online agencies and tools portal where companies can search for experienced Alexa skill builders.

Contributing Authors

Director, Portfolio and New Product Strategy

Luke Currin and his team strive to understand utilities’ needs to improve E Source’s demand-side management, distributed energy...