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.
I recently returned from the 2014 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings in Monterey, California. The conference slated more than 10 concurrent sessions every day for a full week; I attended several talks that offered tidbits and insights I found particularly interesting.
Solar is constantly presented as a battle between the solar industry—which represents the people’s general collective—and the huge, greedy utilities. We’ve all heard that now-familiar slogan: “They tax the sun!” When an issue is framed in such emotional language, it’s really difficult for individuals to step back so they can make their own decisions.
At the 2014 American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy Summer Study last week, I was encouraged to see an increasing focus on utility customer engagement: Customer needs, wants, and experiences are becoming more and more important in this age of disruptive innovation for the industry. Increased engagement not only allows utilities to build a better relationship with their customers, it also helps them achieve efficiency goals. Although installing more-efficient equipment will always be a big part of energy savings, many utilities now recognize that motivating people to change their behavior can have a significant and persistent impact on energy usage.
Have you ever sat in the office of an energy-efficiency engineer and wondered what’s in those nondescript reports filling the shelves? They’re probably technical studies of customers’ facilities, outlining in detail the costs and savings of efficiency opportunities in those buildings. But these analyses are often not used by customers because the amount of information within them is overwhelming, leaving end users with questions about where to start on their path to efficiency. Fortunately, the advent of big data and massive computing horsepower has introduced a new approach: building energy analytics.
The idea seemed so simple: “We’ll continually find the best emerging energy-efficiency technologies and incorporate them into our demand-side management programs.” We don’t know who exactly said that, but we remember numerous demand-side management (DSM) program visionaries saying similar things during the industry’s early years. But if utility DSM programs are going to grow and overcome the inertial drag of ever-rising codes and standards, utilities need to constantly add new technologies to their portfolios. Like so many good ideas, this one turned out to be much harder than anyone thought it was going to be.
There are many heralds of the changing season: The splendid debut of chrysanthemum blooms. An overabundance of football paraphernalia, including Sir Purr (who—let’s admit it—is the best-named mascot ever). Shorter days. And—my personal favorite—cooler nights. But for me and many of my counterparts here at E Source, the most telltale sign that fall is upon us is the E Source Forum. Where else can you mingle with people who not only understand but are interested in (!) strategic energy management initiatives or the potential gas energy savings of new laundry technologies like polymer beads?
I edited 35 E Source Account Management Assessment reports this year, which pretty much makes me an account management specialist. But you don’t have to be an expert to notice something oddly self-defeating in business account management processes. Why are we encouraging contact center reps to collect e-mail addresses from business customers, then hastening the reps off the phone so they meet their average handle time goals?
At last year’s E Source Forum, I was an intern for the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project. Now I’m a research analyst for the demand-side management (DSM) team at E Source, and I’ll be hosting my first Forum session on Wednesday, October 1: “So Happy Together? Collaboration Among Electric, Gas & Water Utilities.” We’ll talk about whether the electric, gas, and water utilities that are partnering on joint DSM programs are happy about the arrangements.
While answering Ask E Source inquiries, I learned about a product that takes a new approach to an old technology: electrostatic air filters. These filters, according to their manufacturers, capture particulates using filtering efficiencies as high as some hospital-grade air filters, all while consuming less energy. Significantly less energy. And just to clarify, filters themselves don’t consume energy, but they affect how much energy the fans that contain them consume. Much to my chagrin, despite this technology’s energy-saving potential, robust research on its performance is lacking.
Participating in the social media conversation allows utilities to respond to and engage customers quickly and efficiently, resolving issues, addressing complaints, and putting a human face on the utility. More important, when utilities don’t participate in the social media conversation, they cede control of and responsibility for brand, reputation, and customer experience. As Dave Kerpen, author of Likeable Social Media, recently wrote in an article for Inc., “Not responding to a customer’s complaint on Twitter is like hanging up the phone on him—with millions watching.”