Not long ago, I read an intriguing e-book about utilities and consumers and their new relationship within the intelligent utility. The Smart Grid Consumer Focus Strategy: Transforming Utility Operations to Build Consumer Value, by Christine Hertzog and Bill Maikranz, is only 51 pages in length, but I recommend you don't try to read it in one sitting. There's too much between the covers to truly appreciate unless you digest this practical advice in small chunks.
"There is one characteristic that is common to all new technologies--they are disruptive to someone or something, whether it is a business practice, a work group, a customer segment, or an entire industry," the book begins. Well, in the past 18 months or so, with the widespread deployment of smart meters, the electric utility industry has certainly found that to be true. Not all consumers have jumped with joy onto the back of the smart grid bandwagon.
But if you look at those who have, and from whom those consumers purchase their electricity, more often than not you'll find that that utility had a pre-deployment roadmap for consumer education, engagement and, ultimately, enlightenment.
Hertzog and Maikranz point out that "many utilities are collections of functional departments or silos that are not well adapted to consumer-centric operations." That being the case, the authors have prepared a step-by-step Consumer Focus Roadmap and a Consumer Focus Model to assist those lost within the forest.
I found myself jotting down notes as I read this e-book. Not only did I find it well laid-out and easy to comprehend and take action upon, but the authors have, in turn, wonderful turns of phrase sprinkled throughout the pages that had me remarking, "I wish I'd said that."
Engaging the electricity consumer has become a focused topic for me, because I think we, as an industry, didn't think this one through well enough before we launched into smart meter deployment. I'll be discussing this in more detail, with a panel of consumer industry experts, next Tuesday at GridWeek in Washington, DC. For those of who will be there, the panel's entitled "The Personal Grid", and it starts at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13.