A growing number of U.S. power companies “are positioning themselves to be a trusted provider of solar and other energy services—mostly because they see no other choice,” Greentech Media reports, citing a host of innovations utilities are undertaking to meet drastic shifts in customer needs and experience.
“Service expectations of the utility, from a consumer point of view, are set by the experiences they get from Amazon and American Airlines and other service providers,” said Jeff Conklin, senior director of J.D. Power’s energy practice. “So that’s the challenge utilities have—to continue to accelerate and have a sense of urgency about improving their overall customer experiences.”
For many utilities, the response to the general trend focuses on “the growing demand for cleaner energy, at a lower price, with more convenient services and greater choice,” Greentech notes.
Reporter Julia Pyper tells the story of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), where CEO and General Manager Arlen Orchard faced a stark choice.
“It’s 2014. Our revenues are flat or declining despite [having] more customers; our customers want more options and choices; we can’t install technology fast enough to keep up with the changes in our industry; and we struggle to manage the data we have from technology we’ve already installed,” he told a conference audience last month. “And if that’s not enough, more than 70% of the electricity I sell to my customers has to be carbon-free by 2030.”
SMUD wasn’t the only utility that missed the “sharp shift in the path” required to accommodate those trends, “but that’s a really small consolation,” he said. “Now we’re playing catch-up, and that’s a pretty uncomfortable place to be and pretty unfamiliar for SMUD.”
Pyper says the solution for many power companies is to position themselves as a “trusted provider” of solar and other energy services.
“I suppose I could have fought the changes at every turn and focused on self-preservation, but that would have meant ignoring my customers and betting against technology,” Orchard said. “At best, I’d end up as the Comcast of utilities, or at worst the Blockbuster.”