Monday, May 13, 2013

SGCC’s new pricing fact sheet: serving both sides of the meter


By Patty Durand, Executive Director, SGCC

As many of you know, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative’s members and staff work hard to serve “both sides of the meter.” That is, the SGCC is helping power utilities engage their customers in new and dynamic ways, while providing consumers with information to understand how they can interact with the new landscape of a digital electrical grid.

The predominant model of monopoly utilities serving captive customers underlies a societal compact in which the consumer enjoys safe, reliable, affordable power. This social compact includes financial and environmental constraints on their utility’s ability to deliver that service.

For example, as utilities strive to meet peak power demands, particularly on hot summer afternoons, they can now offer customers ways to help without the utility investing money in inefficient, peak-only power plants. How? By encouraging consumers to enroll in dynamic pricing plans, which provide customers with incentives to use energy wisely and efficiently as well as minimizing their power demands at the peak of the day.

To aid both utilities and their customers in this evolving relationship, the SGCC has now made available its new power pricing fact sheet,
“Become a Smart Power Consumer.” This is the fifth in our consumer education series that also produced fact sheets on myth-busting, data privacy, consumer benefits and radio frequency-related science.

This new fact sheet on pricing conveys, in simple graphics and straightforward prose, how electricity is generated, transmitted and distributed and why the cost of doing so varies. Most of us are accustomed to paying a flat rate regardless of the timing or amount of electricity we use. This fact sheet helps everyone learn more sophisticated ways that our digital age allows for harnessing electricity in ways that save money, avoid waste, and enjoy the same comfort.

We are in a transitional phase in which re-examining that societal compact means closer cooperation between a utility and its customers. I’m confident that Americans who learned telephone pricing plans based on network capacity can shift to home energy pricing based on timing, quantity and cost. It’s no different.

Our new fact sheet is designed to help utilities explain to their customers the basic concepts of dynamic pricing, while providing those customers with the exact same information to help them make informed choices. The beauty of this approach is transparency, which promotes open dialogue and trust on both sides of the meter.

Please share the pricing fact sheet with colleagues, family and friends. Your utility may already offer several pricing plans and choices or will do so
soon.

Separately, I’ll be participating in a
U.S. Department of Energy workshop in Golden, Colo., on May 21, to help finalize the DOE’s Customer Engagement Guide. The DOE has asked the SGCC to own this document going forward. (Click on the link – we need more utilities to attend.) And I’ll deliver a keynote address at the Muni Smart Grid Summit on June 3 on “Successful Consumer Engagement Practices & Strategies for Utilities About to Deploy Smart Meters,” based on our recent report, “Smart Grid Customer Engagement Success Stories.”

I’d also like to call your attention to the pending launch of SGCC’s new, consumer-facing website, coming this summer. It will provide a destination for consumers who want to learn more about home energy use and grid modernization. We’re in the midst of designing its look and feel. The navigation should serve the public based on their motivations and needs. Looking to save money on your utility bill? We’ll provide best practices. Do you care about environmental sustainability or climate change? We’ll explain how a smarter grid addresses those issues. I am most excited about a portal for consumers to upload their own You Tube videos for testimonials on what they like about their utility’s programs or pricing plans or anything related to a smarter grid. We want to provide a place for consumers to see what others think who are excited about the positive aspects of grid modernization.

In short, the SGCC is on a roll. I look forward to sharing more news of our progress with you soon.

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