To educate customers on smart grid, first understand who they are

To educate customers on smart grid, first understand who they are

The 2015 Smart Grid Customer Education Awards have been presented by SmartEnergy IP, a division of SmartMark Communications, to those utilities demonstrating excellence in smart grid education. Four utilities received the honor. These award-winning utilities obviously know that customer engagement is key to customer education.

CenterPoint Energy's comprehensive smart grid education program was recognized for targeting diversified ethnic and economic audiences. The utility's program is clearly working.

When surveyed, 60 percent of CenterPoint Energy customers were able to name two or more benefits of smart meters. Plus, the utility has installed 99.9 percent of smart meters -- with all but just 34 out of 2.3 million yet to be deployed, clearly demonstrating how well educated and, ultimately, accepting of technology, its customers are.

Portland General Electric is working on the impact of grid efficiency and the integration of advanced technologies like energy storage at its Salem Smart Power System while also uniting with the community to help realize smarter energy (with participants like Oregon Military Department, Oregon State Data Center, PGE customers and Alston Grid among others). PGE's Salem Smart Power Center was recognized for including customers in their technology and innovation plans, making the customer an active participant in shaping the energy future.

"CenterPoint Energy and Portland General Electric are doing outstanding work in the smart grid consumer engagement space," said Patty Durand, executive director of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative, of which the utilities are members. "We are excited that both utilities were recognized for their leadership and programs and keeping a consumer-first mindset in advancing a consumer friendly, consumer approved smart grid."

Central Maine Power in partnership with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute were honored for their creative approach to consumer education -- making both students and their families advocates of energy education and management -- with their PowerHouse education initiative.

PowerHouse engages students and their families to investigate and manage their home electricity use by utilizing smart metering technology directly through math and science learning. Students participate in authentic investigations and use evidence-based reasoning about electricity consumption to develop energy management solutions.

Gulf Power Company's innovative Gulf Power Energy Select program has demonstrated market leadership and commitment to customer education and satisfaction, and was recognized as the first fully automated critical peak pricing program in the country. Leveraging existing broadband networks and its rate design and pricing schemes to deliver participants economic benefits by enabling the utility to reduce peak demand and allow customers to take advantage of lower energy prices, the program has resulted in customer satisfaction rates as high as 95 percent.

Juliet Shavit, CEO of SmartMark Communications, has a tip for other utilities looking to create a cutting-edge and effective smart grid customer education program: Begin with a strong understanding of your customer base.

"Whether by baseline surveys or focus groups, every utility should have a strong grasp on what their customers want to know, how they want to know it, and provide a program that utilizes this knowledge," Shavit told Smart Grid News. "This information applied to a multi-channel communications approach helps ensure effective education to all customers."

Source: Smart Grid News

SMART GRID Bulletin May 2017


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