Georgia Power’s Customer Resource Center
Kenny Coleman is Senior Vice President, Marketing, Georgia Power.
Steve Mitnick is Editor-in-Chief of Public Utilities Fortnightly and author of the book “Lines Down: How We Pay, Use, Value Grid Electricity Amid the Storm.”
PUF's Steve Mitnick interviewed Kenny Coleman, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Georgia Power.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: Tell me what the CRC is.
Kenny Coleman: This is our Georgia Power Customer Resource Center. We opened this place in 2014 to use as a demonstration showcase for electric end-use technologies. We're able to demonstrate everything here, from end-uses like cooking, heating, and water heating, to many of the electro technologies that are available to customers in those fields.
Through our manufacturing applications process, we are demonstrating things like infrared heating and paint coating applications. We've had seventy-five hundred customers come through our doors in just three years, and have been excited to have this as a place for our customers to come.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: What's so good about these electro technologies?
Kenny Coleman: We think electrification provides a lot of benefits to customers. One of the things that we at Georgia Power have been very specific about, is we want to do what's right for the customer. If you do what's right for the customer, things will turn out right for the company.
What we found with some customers is they come in and they're able to demonstrate their products with our equipment. They're able to find out in real terms, does this work for my product? Can I take it back to my application at my home or office?
In many cases, it saved them some significant dollars. Schools came in, and they were redoing their kitchens and cafeterias. They were looking at natural gas alternatives, and electric end-use alternatives, and could come in and visit the CRC to compare different electric equipment. As a result, those school cafeteria kitchens are now all-electric.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: The companies bring in their products, like food or equipment, and try it out?
Kenny Coleman: We had a customer come in who bakes pizzas for a living, and we let them come in and use our cooking equipment to cook their product. They baked sixty or seventy pizzas, and now the pizza ovens in their facility are all-electric. They will tout energy savings, less heat in the kitchens, consistent quality and a better environment for their cooks to work in.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: This Customer Resource Center is unusual. I don't know how many other utilities have one. Is this a good way to get the message across?
Kenny Coleman: Oh, no question. In addition to customers coming in to see the benefits of electrification, we also use it as a training facility for many of our reps. We've got sales reps who are out working with builders, developers, and industrial customers, trying to help make sure we are in a place where we can create value for their operations.
Hopefully they expand in Georgia, add more employees, and use more energy. We use this as a place where they can come in, get early indications about both the benefits and challenges of certain technologies, and then take that knowledge back to customers.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: How does this work?
Kenny Coleman: We've got partnerships with many of the vendors across Georgia. If the customer is interested, we can connect them to a vendor partner who manufactures, and in some cases, installs and maintains the equipment.
Or, they can choose their own vendor. For us, it's not really a vendor selection process. It's more of an awareness. Hopefully we encourage some zealots to go out there and champion electrification.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: Is Georgia electrifying faster than other states? What's the reaction out there?
Kenny Coleman: We are thankful that many customers have seen the benefits of electrification. We've got electric end-uses in the residential customer space. More than fifty percent of those customers have all-electric heating, cooling, and even water heating in some cases.
We've embarked on this effort. It's been a couple of decades of work. We have high saturation rates of electric end-uses, particularly in our residential space, and we continue to work and grow in the commercial and industrial space.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: Why is electrifying further a good thing? Why the push to electrify more?
Kenny Coleman: We believe that every kilowatt-hour now being produced is cleaner than in the past - we're focused on that aspect, as well as making sure that the energy we produce is reliable and affordable as well. Our customers are watching the continued transition of our fleet toward more natural gas and renewables in the generation fleet, while also expecting low energy costs and high reliability. More electric end uses mean more demand for electricity, which equals further opportunity to diversify our fuel mix with more low and no-emission sources.
Whether it's the end-uses we were talking about here, or electrifying transportation. We have continued to work with many of our vendor partners across Georgia. Georgia has over twenty-six thousand electric vehicles, now registered in Georgia.
As recently as 2015, we were the second fastest growing state, next to California. We think that electrifying transportation not only saves customers money, but the operation and maintenance costs in owning electric vehicles now has a value proposition: it costs less to maintain them than cars with internal combustion engines. Customers get benefits from the value proposition, and there are environmental benefits as well.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: What is your role in the company?
Kenny Coleman: I'm thankful to be the senior vice president of marketing. I get a chance to work with the great folks here at the CRC who work with customers every day on electric end-use. We've got a team of people working with our customers across the state to do just that. Our team also runs our energy efficiency program, which is also one of the most successful in the country.
This year we have launched ten new programs across our residential and commercial classes of customers. We work with those folks, and our electric transportation teams. We also work with our renewables team, which operates the largest voluntary renewables portfolio of any utility in the country. By year-end 2021, we'll have nearly three thousand megawatts of renewable generation online, procured both through purchase power agreements and self-built.
I get a chance to work with our renewable team. I also work with our pricing and planning team who does our long-range energy planning, our rates, design and administration, and our forecasting, among other things.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: Take me through what marketing means at Georgia Power.
Kenny Coleman: You'll hear our Southern Company CEO, Tom Fanning, and our CEO in Georgia, Paul Bowers, talk about our customer-centric business model. For us, that puts the customer in the center of all we do and the decisions that we make, relentlessly focusing on keeping prices low, keeping reliability high and doing the things that increase customer satisfaction. That helps us, hopefully, have constructive regulation in our jurisdictions. Then we can invest further in our business through those things.
We view marketing as figuring out how we can improve the lives of our customers through our efforts, products, services, and energy efficiency programs. We wake up every day trying to figure out, 'how do we make life better for Georgians?' In some cases, it's the industries in Georgia that will help create better jobs and a better way of life for our customers.
That's the way we view marketing. We continue to ask our customers, what do they want to see from Georgia Power? We continue, in some cases, to be surprised by their belief that we should offer additional products and services beyond electric end-use.
Those are things like home automation, security lighting for our communities, or advanced lighting technologies. We're doing those things for our customers. We'll continue to listen to them and figure out how we can add more value.
PUF's Steve Mitnick: Efficient, as well as electrification. Both E's?
Kenny Coleman: Yes, absolutely. We've talked with other utilities about it. For some people marketing is load-building. But we view it as helping our customer. If you're able to find opportunities to sell or get additional off-peak kilowatt hours, that don't add to your peak, that's great.
They help us spread more kilowatt hours over our fixed costs. It's really beneficial for all customers. You take, for example, a heat pump: what you're doing now is adding winter load. You're not really adding a summer load.
Add some winter load. That gives more kilowatt hours to spread. The specific customer benefits because their overall cost profile goes down. Customers as a whole in Georgia benefit because now we're spreading more kilowatt hours over the same fixed cost.