Empowering Consumers while Managing Risk and Optimizing Assets
Jan Ahlen is a senior regulatory affairs specialist at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, NRECA. He addresses key grid modernization, industry structure, and retail rate design issues in industry forums and political arenas, on behalf of NRECA’s nine hundred electric cooperative members, and their forty-two million customers.
It's no secret. New and cheaper technologies are profoundly impacting the electric utility industry. The cost to install solar has decreased seventy-three percent since 2006. Battery storage costs are following a similar trajectory.
The proliferation of smart meters and Internet-connected devices creates an exponential amount of data on energy consumption. Consumers are also beginning to desire more control over their energy use. At the same time, consumers will continue to demand safe, affordable, and reliable electric service.
Paraphrasing Amory Lovins, they want their beer to be cold when they open their refrigerator. The combination of new technology and increased consumer expectations presents new and exciting opportunities for utilities and consumers alike.
Electric utilities do not simply sell a commodity. They sell safe, affordable, reliable and clean electric service. They sell the assurance that beer will stay cold twenty-four hours a day.
The "Consumer-Centric Utility" business model expands upon this critical service. The model provides a viable framework for utilities to continue to provide safe, affordable, reliable and clean electric service, while enabling new products and services that meet growing consumer expectations.
This article will define the concept of a consumer-centric utility, illustrate its advantages, and discuss the role of policymakers.