Giving customers more of a stake in Demand Response programs

June 15, 2009 at 3:58 pm

UtiliPoint International has posted another article in a series which points out a problem we have as an industry.  In his article, George Campbell considers Demand Response (DR) programs that repeatedly fizzle out. He suggests that a big problem in DR programming has been a lack of agreement among stakeholders about definitions, and that public policy could be more effective if we had a more cohesive and organized way of viewing and defining terms. He then goes on to offer a detailed typology and taxonomy of Demand Response methods, products, and jargon – a long scroll of charts, numbered lists, bullet points, and tables.

The article becomes an ironic example of what we think is the real problem with DR. To wit: these programs are designed by utility-thinkers. Because they are developed with objectives of grid stability and reliability, they must be assessed with a complicated system of metrics. Many of the demarcations and dependencies only exist to serve the utility’s siloed system of service delivery. All these things, the average customer couldn’t understand – and if they did, they wouldn’t really care that much (but for a few).

We have been to public utility commission meetings assessing DR programs all across the country. When asked why they don’t enroll in DR programs, one of the most common reasons that customers give is that they just don’t understand the value proposition. Merely defining the list of terms better won’t help if that list is too long, or if the customer benefits are buried under sub-categories. We may rightly care about the distinction between load shifting and conservation, or how to justify a resource as spinning reserve, but this is all back-office shop talk from which consumers should be spared.

The turning point in this process is the CUSTOMER. What do customers want?  This is where real innovation and marketing need to come into play, and it will not be developed by utility & meter-heads sitting in PUC-sponsored working groups. Let’s bring all our experience to bear in making a solution based on customer demands. It’s the difference between selling customers a Radio Shack kit with 10-page instructions and asking them to build a piece of network infrastructure to serve us – oh, and it sort of plays music, too; versus selling them a well-designed little MP3 player that simply does what they want. Which would you choose?

– Larsh Johnson


Entry filed under: consumer benefits, eMeter General, Energy regulation, Larsh Johnson, Smart Grid, smart grid benefits. Tags: , , , , , , .

How much bandwidth do you really need? What would prove to you that the Smart Grid is advancing?


June 2009
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