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.

August 14, 2012 | Leland Keller | 0 comments

Everyone you bump into here at the Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, California, works in some aspect of energy efficiency. The 2012 ACEEE Summer Study session topics are so compelling—it’s almost heartbreaking that I can’t be in five places at once. The intriguing conversations started at Sunday afternoon’s reception and dinner, but I’d like to share two session highlights from Monday.

Segmentation on a Shoestring. Brian Smith of Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) worked with Stanford University under a federal stimulus grant to analyze 2011 summer electric interval usage data from 8,000 residential customers with smart meters in the hot and humid Central Valley of California (California climate zones 12 and 13). The researchers defined six distinct groups based on the regularity and shape of their daily load profile, using k-means clustering: morning peak, daytime peak, afternoon peak, evening peak, night peak (oddly the largest group, demonstrating high loads through the night), and dual peak (daytime usage with morning and afternoon peaks). Some of these are ripe targets for demand-response program participation ...

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August 14, 2012 | Mary Horsey | 0 comments

I confess, after living in Colorado for over 25 years and preferring to vacation in the high deserts of southern Utah and northern New Mexico, I’m completely smitten with the northern coast of California—at least the part around Monterey. Cool temperatures, a fine mist in the air that doesn’t seem to get your clothes damp, curly hair from all the humidity—awesome! But, I digress. I’m fortunate enough to be attending the 2012 ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, and I can easily characterize my experience so far: also awesome!

My presentation topic was “Gas-Fired Efficiency Technologies for Commercial Kitchens,” which many of you previewed during our recent Tech Roundup web conference. I was one of three presenters in the first Summer Study session on appliances in the Miscellaneous Plug Loads Panel. Don Fisher, founder of the Food Service Technology Center talked about the efficiency, load-shifting, and demand-response potential of commercial ice machines. We’re looking at a 34 percent efficiency increase by switching to an Energy Star–rated machine as well as the ability to shift ice-making away from ...

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August 14, 2012 | Rich Goodwin | 0 comments

How does a call center obtain and use “voice of the customer” feedback? Call centers use a variety of methods to survey their customers. It could be a self-service survey that callers complete when they’re done with their transactions or a mail survey that’s sent out at some point after a contact. Some utilities hire a third-party vendor to perform post-transaction telephone surveys. Or call centers might measure customer experience using a combination of these methods.

When I was a call center supervisor, we had access to customer survey transcripts. By reading actual responses from customer, I was able to get a feel for how they were treated and whether they were satisfied with their interaction. All calls were recorded, so we could use actual recordings of particularly difficult calls to help train our call center reps. Now, many call centers have made reviewing recorded calls an integral part of the quality-assurance process. Hearing actual customer voices provides a more complete picture of the experience. You can hear voice inflections and whether any words or phrases were emphasized. It also gives you the opportunity to coach your reps.

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August 10, 2012 | Mike Weedall | 0 comments

As I wrote in a June blog post, the potential for distributed generation (DG) to change utilities’ business dynamics continues to evolve. With drivers such as lower natural gas prices for the foreseeable future and increasingly available DG technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP), how long before a robust private market develops and takes off for sectors such as large commercial buildings?

One of the most interesting developments on this front is the move by some regulators to allow CHP applications that meet performance standards to count toward energy-efficiency targets. Activity in this area is early and varies greatly. Some U.S. states are encouraging CHP adoption but not mandating or setting targets for that activity (New York and California). Ohio recently passed legislation qualifying CHP as an energy-efficiency measure, but the state still has to develop the specifics of implementation. There are states that have taken the plunge and qualified CHP for energy-efficiency credits (Rhode Island) and even one state that has set specific energy-efficiency targets for CHP activity (Massachusetts). And because CHP in Massachusetts has been prioritized, ...

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August 9, 2012 | Kenneth Black | 1 comments

Remember the Mel Gibson movie What Women Want? A strange accident leaves a chauvinistic advertising executive (Mel Gibson) with the power to hear women’s thoughts, which proves to be both fascinating and upsetting. What if you could hear what your customers (male and female) were really thinking, but not saying or doing?

Now there’s a difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is one of our five physical senses and most people have that capability, but listening requires a skill that can be learned. I encourage utilities to provide more training to improve this skill, especially for employees who interact with customers. This old nursery rhyme says it all: A wise old owl sat on an oak. The more he saw, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?

Assuming that we actually listened to our customers, do you think it would change the utility business model as we know it? Maybe not, but it would certainly help improve customer satisfaction, build trust, and increase loyalty. Effective customer market research can also help, especially when designing programs and improving the ...

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August 8, 2012 | Beth Hartman | 0 comments

Summer storm season is here, bringing the usual assortment of familiar yet unpredictable hurricanes, floods, and fires, along with dramatic power outages in the U.S. and around the world. Here in Colorado, we were reminded of the fragile equilibrium between nature and urban populations as lightning storms struck and wildfires raged across the state, bringing destruction and chaos to thousands of families. During this terrible tragedy, I was impressed by how people used social media to quickly share information and solutions, and I thought that some of the same strategies might apply during power outages.

As the fires spread, people flocked to social media channels to find the latest updates, generating a spike in traffic typically seen during such unexpected events. On Twitter, the use of hashtags to allow people to search for information on a certain topic can be especially effective for emergency communications. For example, during the wildfire in Colorado Springs, people used the hashtag #WaldoCanyonFire to indicate that a particular tweet included information about the event.

This means that instead of just trying to find one reliable source of information ...

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