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Tools, Platforms and Ecosystems

Can a disruptive technology change the electric customer experience?

Fortnightly - June 2012

provides products and services that enhance the customer experience.

Today the groups that make up this extended community tend to operate independently and at best only share requirements. As an Innovator, however, the utility enables the innovation process by furnishing the community with a full end-to-end view of services and products, including even research and experimentation for new product development. In fact, this Ecosystem has the potential to interconnect customers, energy producers and distributors, the business community, and appliance and end-use equipment manufacturers, as well as to provide consumer feedback. Its aim is to make it easy and simple for customers to manage energy use. The Innovator is the most complex position. It requires significant adaptation and cooperation among industry players. However, it has the greatest potential for altering the customer experience and achieving energy efficiency. The research indicated that because of the immaturity and uncertainty in the market, this position has been discussed only by a few utilities. In fact only one company said it was considering aspects of this position and had taken actions to experiment just how such an arrangement would work.

Consider, however, that this matrix of market positions is a continuum without clear boundaries. The upper box positions require the most change in operations and culture, while the lower box positions are more aligned with a utility’s present regulatory policy and skill sets. While change will be required, it won’t be as dramatic as with the upper boxes. Utilities likely will position themselves in a way that mixes aspects of all four positions. The survey results show that some utilities in the Traditional position are moving in either the Customer Advisor or Efficient Operator directions. As market acceptance of platforms and various ecosystem solutions become known, some of these utilities surely will move toward the Innovator position. In the end utilities will position themselves to align with their business strategies.



1. The Demand and Energy Technology Research Consortium (DETech), started in 2006, is an independent utility research consortium, along with a vendor advisory council.

2. Surveys and interviews were conducted in 2011. The participants included executives from: Austin Energy, Commonwealth Edison, Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, Duke Energy, Hydro One, NSTAR, PECO, Pepco Holdings, Portland General Electric, Sempra, and Xcel Energy.