During the opening plenary at the 2015 E Source Forum, we heard from several dynamic and visionary industry leaders—including Elisabeth Brinton, Ralph Cavanagh, John Di Stasio, Joe Jankosky, Michael Shepard, Jim Rogers, and Bill LeBlanc—about the challenges and opportunities presented by the disruptive changes happening around us. From shifting customer expectations to environmental pressures, competition from new market entrants, and rapidly evolving technologies—we heard about these issues against a backdrop of flat revenues and rising costs. We learned that some utilities are in denial, but most are trying to become greener, more customer-focused, and more nimble. Unfortunately, internal inertia and a slow-moving regulatory framework are hampering their ability to innovate. And when they try something new, such as proposing ways to promote distributed solar, hostile stakeholders or skeptical regulators often send them back to square one. Check out our video highlights of these discussions.

Putting the Customer First

We have new opportunities from technology. ... LEDs are likely to be extremely attractive options for residential and business customers because of their controllability, their light ability ... without a lot of selling on our part.

Bill LeBlanc, Chief Instigation Officer, E Source

Partnerships in the Smart Home Market

Utilities have a participation opportunity to make [automation] happen and be more relevant to your customers.

Joe Jankosky, Director of IntelligentHome New Verticals, Time Warner Cable

For all the things that utilities can do on the innovation front, we’re still very slow to market because of our regulatory model.

John Di Stasio, President, Large Public Power Council

Beyond Fixed Charges: Innovations in Rate Design

It’s a mistake to rely on increased fixed charges, which reduce customers’ rewards for saving energy and installing distributed generation. We need other rate design alternatives.

Ralph Cavanagh, Co-Director, Energy Program, Natural Resources Defence Council

Whether or not there are other ways ... every utility has got to figure out how they want to change rates in the future.

John Di Stasio, President, Large Public Power Council

How can we balance predictability for the utility that covers the cost and value of the grid and the services it really provides?

Elisabeth Brinton, Former Vice President & Corporate Strategy Officer, Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Energy Efficiency: How We Connect with Customers

[Energy efficiency] has been a slow and quiet revolution for many, many decades, but I really think it’s our future because it is how we connect in a relevant and meaningful way with our customers.

Elisabeth Brinton, Former Vice President & Corporate Strategy Officer, Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Don’t Underestimate Customers’ Ability to Grasp Change

[Customers] will make choices out of their own best interest, which typically are good choices.

John Di Stasio, President, Large Public Power Council

Brand Strength

With that transparency and responsiveness, I think you can still build brand.

Elisabeth Brinton, Former Vice President & Corporate Strategy Officer, Pacific Gas and Electric Co.

Being able to provide different ways to present the value of that [smart meter] data for customers’ benefit, ... showing consumers we’re investing, but we’re also innovating.

John Di Stasio, President, Large Public Power Council

Customer Experience

Create additional touchpoints because that will broaden the relationship [with customers].

John Di Stasio, President, Large Public Power Council

Part of change is recognizing that consumers are people and they’re individuals. ... Make sure our programs are aligned to the distinct self-interest of the individual consumer.

Elisabeth Brinton, Former Vice President & Corporate Strategy Officer, Pacific Gas and Electric Co.