High Bills and No Power? Get Ahead of Potential Energy Shortfalls

image credit: Questline
Maureen Mierke's picture
Marketing Manager Questline Inc.

Marketing Manager at Questline - a digital agency that provides content marketing and program promotion solutions to energy utilities who want to build long-term relationships with their customers.

  • Member since 2021
  • 7 items added with 7,327 views
  • Jun 9, 2021

As the first official day of summer draws near, many look forward to sunshine, vacations and picnics with the family. However, many others also look to summer with hesitation, fearing the continuation of extreme weather patterns. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC) 2021 Summer Reliability Assessment warns that parts of North America are at high risk of energy shortfalls during above-normal peak temperatures.

Forecasting Energy Impacts

The forecast of increased temperatures comes as no surprise, with climate change continuing to present numerous environmental and energy concerns. The Texas winter storm in February 2021 provides an unfortunate example of such changes, having led to more than 100 people dead and over 4 million people without power. California is another example; in August 2020 the state had to enact rotating blackouts that left over 400,000 homes and businesses without power for hours when energy supply ran short.

Looking ahead to summer 2021, NERC’s analysis again shows California at high risk of energy impacts during peak hours, followed by Texas, New England and parts of the West at elevated risk. The report notes that California expects an additional 3 GW of extra additional generation resources versus summer 2020. However, most of this additional energy will be solar photovoltaic (PV) generated, which will fall off in the late afternoon despite demand remaining high.

NERC’s report also states that, in addition to above-normal temperatures, other risks for energy emergencies include:

  • Low wind scenarios
  • Variable solar generation
  • Drought and wildfire-related impacts


Reach Out to Customers Before High Bills Arrive

Although these concerns impact energy utilities, it’s their customers who will feel the fallout. With the knowledge of what to expect this season, now is the time to proactively encourage customers to lower their energy usage. This can provide relief to the grid to prevent brownouts and can help customers lower their energy bills – a win-win situation. Plus, share insights and tips with customers about why their energy bills might be higher and how they can combat increasing energy use by making efficient choices.

Proactively communicating with customers about potential outages is also key for increased customer satisfaction. J.D. Power’s Business Customer Overall Satisfaction survey says that “Proactive communication about power outages and estimated restoration times have played a key role in this increase [of satisfaction], with overall satisfaction increasing 24 points when customers are alerted to an outage.”

Questline suggests utilizing segmented content to speak to the wants, interests and needs of your customers. Although energy emergencies effect everyone, it will impact residential customers differently than business customers.

In addition, energy efficient tips will look different for each segment – for residential customers, it could be making simple swaps to LED lighting or investing in ENERGY STAR© appliances. For business owners, it might mean encouraging equipment to be powered off and unplugged when not in use or purchasing energy efficient HVAC units.

The key is to remember that, in this instance, no one likes surprises. Your energy utility doesn’t want the surprise of a grid failure no more than your customers want the surprise of high bills or outages.

Communicate transparently with customers ahead of a potentially difficult season to set expectations with them. In return, your customers may see lower bills, be more forgiving during outages and will see your energy utility as a trusted resource. In addition, if both your energy utility and its customers act early enough, there is the potential to skip outages altogether. As the saying goes, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

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Audra Drazga's picture
Audra Drazga on Jun 11, 2021

Maureen - thanks for your post.  In regards to communicating with your customers are there tips that you can share to help utilities make their communication stand out?  The reason I ask, is it seems that many times customers have little interest until something happens like high bills or no power.  How do we make communication stand out in a big way? 

Maureen Mierke's picture
Maureen Mierke on Jun 15, 2021

Hi Audra, what a great question! Although it often seems customers lack interest until “negative” situations arise (like high bills or power outages), the opposite is actually true - customers want to hear from their utility in good times, too. The important thing is to start these communications with your customers as soon as possible. We know from our performance metrics data that customers who engage early on with communications from their utility are more likely to stay engaged and open future communications. By developing content that speaks to the customer first and your utility second, you can position your utility as a trusted resource. Start communicating on day one and you will surely see customer engagement and satisfaction increase.

Paul Korzeniowski's picture
Paul Korzeniowski on Jun 29, 2021

Good points. Always makes sense to get ahead of issues that may become a concern to customers. Temperatures are now close to 100 in Boston (and other places across the country), so ideally, the potential for outages remains just potential and not actual. 

Maureen Mierke's picture
Thank Maureen for the Post!
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