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Bidgely Insights - Renewable Energy and the Smart Grid

Parks Associates is excited to feature Abhay Gupta from Bidgely as a keynote speaker during our eleventh annual Smart Energy Summit! He will be speaking on Wednesday, February 19, at 9:45 am, and will be discussing how providers can win the customer mindshare by becoming the trusted energy advisor on areas such as electrification, peak demand management, energy efficiency, and customer satisfaction and can confidently act as a conduit to connect their customers with the other services they're seeking as it relates to energy use. Learn more about Abhay Gupta's Smart Energy Summit keynote here.

Ahead of his keynote, we asked him to share some thoughts with us on renewable energy and the smart grid:

What are the current challenges, new services, and incremental shifts utilities are making to leverage connectivity in the home to save energy on the grid?
Deeper engagement with customers - utilities can build customer mindshare by tailoring their services based on a strong understanding of their customer’s behaviors and patterns. The challenge is ensuring customers realize value from connectivity which utilities can help with by offering services such as energy analytics, demand response programs and tips for using connected devices.

What are successful approaches to demand response that enable customers to have access to backup power, reduce energy bills, and maximize the use of renewable energy, while helping utilities manage distributed energy resources on the grid?
Robust end-to-end time of use programs can help educate and motivate customers to shift load to periods that are better for the grid and cheaper overall. However, a successful program relies on using data to identify load-shifting opportunities for each customer in order to scale demand response at a residential level. 

What is the impact of direct consumer participation in energy markets?
With more customer choice, utilities now have more urgency to establish customer mindshare and raise their brand value. If they don’t, they risk losing losing customers or losing control of the grid which makes managing load much harder. As a result, utilities have invested more in energy analytics, customer engagement, marketplaces and other services to deliver more value to their customers. 

What are strategies to increase consumer engagement?
All customer engagement strategies start with a strong foundation of customer understanding. First understand your customer’s behavior, motivations, usage patterns and demographics. Next, identify the next best interaction for each customer and use it to personalize their journey from what they are recommended, what insights they are shown when they first start service, their rate plan and relevant programs. Finally, continually measure and refine your offerings to meet changing customer needs - all programs get stale over time and in order to increase engagement, new investment may be necessary. 

What are the barriers to adoption for solar, EV and storage companies?
Ease of adoption is a major barrier to solar, EV, and storage adoption. You can see steady improvements in this regard, where before you had to schedule an onsite assessment to get a quote, now you can get a quote online. Still, it has some ways to go before it is as seamless as clicking a button. What will help is making sure these companies are educating and reaching customers where they want to be reached. 

What innovations are driving consumer adoption of energy management?
The concept of personal energy assistant and hyper-personalization are innovations in Artificial Intelligence that are rapidly increasing customer adoption of energy management. AIs can now understand home energy use efficiency, identify opportunities for improvement and suggest relevant products and services all on behalf of the customer. This saves time and de-mystifying the technical nature of energy management, making it accessible to everyone. Artificial intelligence makes managing home energy use a lot easier - so more customers adopt. 

How are energy management platforms adding value (i.e. user experience, data analytics)?
Energy management platforms sit between the utility and the customer as a sort of ambassador. A good platform can ensure customers are aware of programs and offerings that are relevant to them and expose them to opportunities they haven’t taken advantage of, like EV rebates or on-bill financing for energy efficient products. Customers that use energy analytics can also gain a sense of accomplishment and control over their energy use which translates to better perception of the utility overall. Energy management platforms are essential in nurturing and managing this customer relationship. 

How is the impact of voice and AI affecting consumers and the future role they will play in driving energy efficiency solutions?
Changing customer expectations and norms of engagement have led to the rise of voice and AI as an important channel for engagement. Voice in particular can profoundly support and enhance behavioral energy efficiency programs as it brings energy management closer to a home’s internal cadence making it easier for customers to mindful of and make changes. Especially with the rise of smart home appliances being controlled by voice we see AI playing a powerful role in helping customers become energy efficient while not sacrificing comfort. 

How is the adoption of distributed energy and electric vehicle ownership impacting the grid?
While slow moving, the adoption of DER and EVs are going to cause peak demand challenges for grid at certain points of the day at certain times of the year. Utilities are starting to get a handle of the speed in growth of solar and EV charging in order to plan for this better but it will be paramount for them to also figure out ways to engage in a two-way conversation with customers so that they can actively manage it.

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