In a two-sided equation, energy providers are looking at balancing their energy supply with actual consumer demand. In many cases there is an imbalance, due to many factors, but the providers are concentrating on how to convince and persuade consumers to use less and too smooth out their demand through changes in consumption and behavior.
Unfortunately, this is not as simple as the sales pitches by various organizations to implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Most often there isn’t enough data to provide consumption patterns other than accumulated usage over a period (usually a month) and comparing this to the previous month, and the same period last year.
There are a number of pieces to this complex puzzle:
1. Firstly, the need to collect and provide meaningful reporting based on more granular data and patterns of consumption in real-time. This requires changes to the physical metering and is provided by smart metering solutions.
2. Secondly, smoothing of demand will also need introduction of incentives that positively reinforce consumer behaviour to use less energy, or to shape their consumption patterns to off-peak usage.
3. Thirdly, follow with more advanced options, including the installation of devices that provide capability to remotely control pool pumps, water heaters and air conditioners.
4. Next, provide a mechanism for customers to more easily access the consumption data through intelligent reporting, assisting them to understand, better manage and control their home energy consumption.
5. Finally, accept and manage the growing trend of prosumers (consumers that also produce power) adopting rooftop solar PV. This will lead to other requirements such as energy trading and disintermediation of their local utility provider. (I’ll cover this aspect in another article).
Much of this capability is being offered by Home Energy Management (HEM) systems as an addition to the standard Utility Enterprise Billing and Collection systems.
Lastly, it comes down to how much the customers trust their utility, and the way in which data is collected and utilised.
There is no turning back, as other non-industry disruptors will find the opportunity to manoeuvre themselves between the meter and the customer.
The current landscape for HEM vendors is developing but a recent research report published (for 2016) by Navigant Research has ranked the vendors as follows:
Note: Most of the same principles apply to Water & Waste Water Utilities as well.