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Cracking the Customer Engagement Code for the Next Era of the Smart Grid

Connected Consumer Devices

Engaged customers represent the Promised Land for utilities facing a myriad of business and regulatory pressures. They enable more effective demand-response and efficiency programs, which achieve regulatory goals.

Today, utilities are still struggling to crack the code for effective customer engagement. The good news is that utilities have already deployed more than 150 million smart meters around the world. So, the hardware is already in place, laying the critical groundwork for energy-customer engagement. Smart meters deliver the core operations, including data collection, advanced meter reading and streamlined customer billing that have already led to significant improvement for customers. For example, Itron's OpenWay smart grid network has helped utilities dramatically cut costs and reduced outage dispatch times, increasing operational efficiency.

The next era will involve combining smart meters with software designed to help utilities go beyond basic functionality to provide better services that engage customers and more easily achieve energy efficiency goals.

Building on the smart meter network

Utility-controlled home energy management systems developed by CEIVA Energy build on Itron's smart grid network to help utilities activate their infrastructure investment and engage with customers in new ways. While Itron provides the backend infrastructure, CEIVA brings a deep background in engaging people on a personal level.

CEIVA's Entryway solution works with Itron's smart grid solution to give utilities management software for residential demand response, remote meter and device provisioning, and data analytics. This helps utilities segment customers based on load profiles and usage patterns and deliver programs that are relevant to them. For example, utilities can bring a pool-specific program only to residents who have pools, avoiding wasted time and money from irrelevant programs.

CEIVA's customer engagement ecosystem is completed with CEIVA Homeview. CEIVA Homeview pulls instant data from Itron's meter, historical data from the Itron network, enables load control and delivers AMI messages. The platform provides customers with instant and historical views of their home's energy, gas and water usage on their mobile device, a utility-branded web portal and an in-home display. Customers can also respond to peak events and control smart thermostats, plugs and other load control devices from their mobile devices, whether from their couch or from the office.

The centerpiece of this approach is tapping real-time smart meter data to capture customer attention. Instead of boring customers with charts and wordy lectures, the CEIVA display blends instant and weekly views of electricity, water and gas use with the customer's own personal pictures synched via the cloud. In addition, customers receive unique conservation and community messages from the utility, notifying them about local events and more. The energy-related information is presented in a beautiful and engaging way, so the display is usually featured in the kitchen or living room, at the center of users' lives. Most importantly, research reveals that this approach gets the results the industry has been hoping for.

Doing customer engagement right

National Grid has tapped into this approach to engage residential customers in Worcester, Massachusetts. Building on Itron's smart grid network and CEIVA Energy's technology, National Grid is delivering a range of technology solutions to 15,000 residential customers, making it the largest program of its kind in the Northeast.

As part of the program, Worcester customers receive smart thermostats, smart plugs, hard-wired load control devices as well as CEIVA's in-home display. CEIVA and Itron deliver a seamless ecosystem of home thermostat and appliance controls, as well as useful data and utility messaging via the engaging display. Customers can also access real-time, detailed energy consumption information through convenient web platforms and mobile apps.

So where is the value for National Grid? In addition to delivering products and services that boost customer satisfaction, National Grid can use the program to run advanced analytics on customers' real-time energy data. By assessing behavior and usage trends, the utility can better target energy efficiency and demand-response initiatives while improving program efficiency.

Simply put, bringing customers more visibility and control over their home energy use is a win-win for customers and for the utility.

Delivering on the smart-grid promise

CEIVA's and Itron's solutions are critical to delivering on the promise of the smart grid by completing the last mile-or last few feet-to connect smart meter information with the customer. Together, we are changing the utility business by unlocking customer engagement and reinventing the utility-customer relationship so that utilities can thrive in a rapidly shifting market.

Co-Author: Stephen Johnson is a Product Line Manager for Itron

Dean Schiller's picture

Thank Dean for the Post!

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Don Hirschberg's picture
Don Hirschberg on Jan 15, 2015 7:00 pm GMT
“Engaged customers represent the Promised Land for utilities facing a myriad of business and regulatory pressures. They enable more effective demand-response and efficiency programs, which achieve regulatory goals. “

I don't have the vaguest idea where you find these “engaged customers.” I have never once heard an electricity customer even say “smart meter” or “demand response”

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