Welcome to Culver Electric Currents—your monthly e-source for industry news and product information, including the latest educational and promotional items, trends, tips, stories, and events.
This month, learn about the technology driving grid modernization, the changing landscape of customer relationships, the impact of LEDs, and effective tools for helping customers use energy wisely.
Culver Company’s Products Group can help you select or create the right educational and promotional products for your outreach efforts. Be sure to check out Culver Electric Currents each month for your industry product news.
The smart grid of the future may look very different than the one we have today. Continual innovations in technology and new sources of utility-scale renewable energy are just a couple of the things demanding grid modernization.
As utilities work to extend new lines and continue smart meter rollout, implementing modernizations, including two-way flow capacity and distribution management systems, will be critical to managing future increases in renewables, distributed energy resources, and additional capacity from grid scale batteries. The International Energy Agency estimates that the US will need to spend $2.1 trillion by 2035 on grid modernization technologies and infrastructure. While grid modernization programs take many forms, most will be built with an objective to optimize reliability and operations. Two market disruptors being explored by utilities of all sizes as they build their modernization plans are:
Grid Scale Battery Storage
A hot topic not only because Tesla, a California-based automaker and energy storage company, is making strides in residential batteries designed for off-the-grid backup power and linkage to home solar systems, but also because utilities recognize its potential to help them manage their top priorities going forward, improving reliability and operations. Benefits are expected to:
Distributed Energy Resources
The implementation of distributed energy resources is well underway in the US, and while utilities may disagree on where it falls in the list of modernization priorities, market leaders agree that new functionality needs to be built into the grid to handle their expected growth.
Advanced technologies, such as distribution management systems, high-speed communications, advanced sensors, and energy storage systems will enable utilities the capacity to manage, coordinate, and aggregate these renewable energy sources. Not only will they enable significant advances in overall demand response, but it may also encourage broad implantation of innovations, such as community-based microgrids that can connect and disconnect from the centralized grid, and ultimately, minimize environmental impact.
No matter what form your utility’s modernization plan takes, it’s clear that grid modernization has evolved into an industry of its own. According to the Department of Energy, there are now 860,869 people employed in the electric power sector, an increase of more than 101,000 jobs from 2015. Most of this surge has been provided by the construction of solar, natural gas, and wind power plants. The recent election may have injected some uncertainty into the energy market; however, investments in grid modernization will ultimately make electric power systems more flexible, reliable, and customer centric.
For many utilities, engaging the customer on an individualized basis can be challenging. Smart grid data, emerging technologies, and a rapidly changing industry can make it difficult to know where to begin. In addition, industry leaders are realizing that the face of their customer has changed and that they need to try harder to proactively engage with them in order to build trust, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, long-term retention.
Simply stated, millennials are the new face of today’s customer—and they will be for a long time to come. Now America’s largest generation, their choices and behaviors have shaped many industries, and they are now influencing the utility industry.
Unlike prior generations, millennials use technology differently and more frequently. As a result, they are natural seekers of information. They easily turn to the internet as a means to manage their lives. They are also used to regular communication from service providers—whether it’s Amazon, Uber, or Starbucks, they have come to expect a high level of service, flexibility of choice, and personalization.
Large utilities are no longer ignoring this trend and are paving the way. Making smart grid data available through web portals, apps, and social media enables a truly customer-centric experience. The proactive nature of text alerts regarding subjects from higher-than-average bills to outage restoration estimates changes the tone of the interaction and works to build trust and customer satisfaction. Some utilities are even pursuing third-party partnerships to give their customer the ultimate control in energy use management through a completely connected home-energy system that links the energy use of major home appliances with telecom and entertainment offerings.
While these innovations provide seemingly endless opportunities to create valuable interactions with the customer, educational programs that include community outreach remain a critical part of the equation. Those utilities that provide education to residents through energy audits, school programs, and community events demonstrate a commitment to the community that residents appreciate. Not all utility companies have the resources to implement the full scope of technology and community involvement, but certainly, an integrated approach at any level, will deepen your relationship with residents—building a foundation to thrive in today’s new customer-centric energy landscape.
No matter how you look at it, the low-carbon economy is growing—driven in part by the growth of LED lighting (light-emitting diode). In fact, Goldman Sachs analysts project that by 2025, 9 out of 10 lightbulbs sold will be LEDs. As you build your educational outreach program, think about promoting the use of LED bulbs as part of your energy efficiency message.
We all lead busy lives these days, and the homeowners in your community are likely no different. When it comes to electricity, they want simple money-saving ideas that also help them feel like they are doing their part for the environment. Helping them find ways to do this will improve customer satisfaction and position your utility as a responsible, environmental steward.
Described by Goldman Sachs as “the first fully commercialized low-carbon technology,” LED bulbs are not only the most efficient bulb on the market today, but also their price has come down and their performance has risen dramatically. It’s a great sustainability message but also a practical change that your customers can easily implement at home. With other large countries, including the US, Canada, Mexico, most of Europe, India, China, Australia, and Japan moving to ban incandescent lighting, your residents will feel like they are doing their part—while saving money, too!
Low carbon technology is being developed so fast these days some customers may not realize how much progress has been made with LED bulbs and the meaningful difference they can make:
And remember, LEDs:
As you help more and more customers realize the benefits of LEDs, you’ll meet your goals for energy-efficiency programming, and they’ll have a new appreciation for their utility company!
At Culver, we’ve created a selection of tools to help you promote the benefits of LEDs, including our Energy Efficiency Booklet (#41050). If your outreach plan includes school children, consider including one our promotional items as a way to directly demonstrate how LEDs work. Our new Emergency Flashlight (#88405) is a good way to get the kids engaged—their teacher can demonstrate using the hand crank to generate enough electricity to power the flashlight.
For additional information about LED educational and promotional items or any other kind of electric outreach materials, call us at 800-428-5837, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.culverco.com/catalog.
No one wants to be an energy waster, so when it comes to establishing better habits, your customers need new information and sometimes, ever-present reminders. Courtesy of your utility, these energy wheels can be tacked up in any high-traffic area in the home for easy and regular reminders. Your customers will learn new ways to make the home more energy efficient, as well as how to make earth-friendly life choices, and the kids will enjoy spinning the wheel each day to choose a new habit to practice.
Newly designed in the shape of an LED bulb, this wheel contains dozens of ideas for making the home more energy efficient through easy actions, like caulking windows and vents, and small habits, like washing only full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine. This all-in-one guide also encourages customers to check with their local utility for more ideas and to look for the ENERGY STAR® label when buying appliances.
Hand out the Sustainable Energy Wheel to teach people that whether it’s energy saved directly in the home by lowering a thermostat or energy saved when they reuse cloth grocery bags instead of choosing plastic, smart energy choices help preserve our natural resources and reduce utility bills.
All materials can be customized with your logo and brand message. For more information on our entire selection of public outreach materials and promotional items, call us at 800-428-5837, email email@example.com, or visit www.culverco.com/catalog.