Smart Grid as Quick-E Mart
During interviews for this month’s cover story, “Customer Service: 2020,” leaders in the world of back-office information technology (IT) spoke with Fortnightly about customer service and the smart grid. They came from companies as diverse as Oracle and Telus, HP and Convergys, Vertex and SAP. But whatever the company, whatever the discussion, almost every leader came around eventually to focus on a single agent of change—the rise of electric vehicles.
Each executive imagined that EVs will transform the way utilities interact with customers, but in ways that not all of us might yet fully appreciate.
Gas Station of the Future
Several of the people interviewed for our cover story suggested that distributed generation will create a new role for utility customers: the “prosumer” role, in which individual customers and communities generate electricity for upload into the grid. Of course this is nothing new; utilities have been required to provide interconnection services for some types of customer-owned generation since 1978. But even if full-fledged net metering spreads across the country, the prosumer trend seems inextricably tied to the economics of small generation technologies—especially rooftop photovoltaics, and also things like micro-cogeneration.