How to survive the coming utility revolution

Speaking Sustainably

How to survive the coming utility revolution

Image of power lines by 06photo via Shutterstock

The utility industry is rapidly changing and facing challenges unheard of even a few years ago. From new carbon reduction regulations to the rapidly growing adoption of distributed solar generation, it's not business as usual.

Shelton Group's Eco Pulse study found that 40 percent of U.S. consumers seek greener energy alternatives. New technologies and the Internet of Things are changing the way we think about our homes and businesses. Millennials, in particular, are much less likely to simply dial up their local utility for service when they buy their first home; instead, they are thinking about smart appliances and integrated home packages that offer mobile apps to manage thermostat and lighting, entertainment and security functions.

Changes for commercial and consumer customers

In many ways, utilities are better prepared to meet the needs of commercial and industrial customers in this changing environment. They have, for many years, offered special services for their largest "key accounts," negotiating special rates and offering sweet deals for peak demand load-shedding, and consulting and providing services for sub-metering and power management. They also have well-established programs with many industries to support co-generation, such as capturing steam produced during manufacturing processes to generate energy.

But more non-industrial, commercial customers are closely examining their energy consumption and starting to shift away from their utilities. Our B2B Pulse study found that 62 percent of larger American companies have stated goals around drastically reducing energy consumption and generating their power from renewable sources.

A historically monopolistic industry is suddenly faced with competition from many fronts. Who's going to own the customer? Smart utilities are planning now to avoid becoming just pipes and lines — a "commodity of last resort" with revenue coming primarily from lower-income households and small businesses that don't have the financial wherewithal to take advantage of other alternatives.

So what should you be doing to avoid this scenario and proactively prepare for this changing world?

On Sept. 9, Suzanne Shelton will moderate a free webcast called "Surviving the Coming Utility Revolution," sponsored by GreenBiz.com, that will host energy management leaders from Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson and Walmart. They'll share their sustainability goals and how utilities can help them achieve those goals.

This webcast will show utilities how they can best serve and retain their largest C&I customers as they increasingly seek to generate their own energy and reduce their environmental footprint. If you work in strategic planning, energy efficiency or distributed generation program management, product development, or customer service/key accounts in an electric or gas utility, this webcast will give you excellent insight into how to position your utility and your product/service portfolio to be most appealing to your largest customers.

Experts on the webcast

Webcast speakers will include Microsoft Director of Energy Strategy Brian Janous, Johnson & Johnson Global Energy Director Jed Richardson and Walmart Senior Director of Energy David Ozment.

Janous will share how utilities can play a part in Microsoft's plan for ensuring a highly reliable supply of power for its data centers and advise on what utilities should be doing right now to become trusted energy advisors. He'll also discuss how Microsoft hopes to work with utilities to rethink business models across large and small scales.

Richardson will discuss why one of the world's greenest companies has spent more than $200 million on energy reduction projects in recent years and what it intends to do going forward — plus the role it wants utilities in its markets to play in achieving its goal of 50 MW of onsite generation by 2016.

Walmart intends to drive the production or procurement of 7 billion kWh of renewable energy and reduce the kWh/sq.ft. energy intensity required to power their buildings by 20 percent globally in just over five years. Ozment will describe what the company needs from utilities to help make that goal a reality.

For more information or to register for the webcast, visit Greenbiz.com's event page.

Top image of power lines by 06photo via Shutterstock. This article first appeared at Shelton Insights.