Insights from our Editorial Team
`Clustering' remains central concern
With nearly every major automaker planning to introduce a plug-in electric vehicle over the next three years, utility companies are increasingly working to make sure their customers will be able to charge their cars worry-free - while protecting the grid from anticipated impacts. In this article Energy Central's Christopher Perdue talks to Roddy Diotalevi, senior director - client services at the United Illuminating Company (UI), to discuss how they are preparing for electric vehicles (EVs).
Southern California Edison cuts through the fog
Southern California Edison (SCE) has thought through how to think about storage ("storage" is not a unified concept), how to determine its technical feasibility and its economic viability. In a paper delivered to the California Public Utilities Commission this week, SCE makes a number of clear points that bear repeating.
Lessons learned: listen, then talk, manage expectations
Portland General Electric decided to make its smart meter rollout an exercise in customer engagement. Every utility in the land could benefit from PGE's approach, which strengthened its ties to the community and lay the foundation for future smart grid initiatives. You cannot afford to ignore PGE's approach described in this column.
What's ahead for 2020?
What will the electric utility industry look like in 2020? Despite the hiccups, despite the blips, despite the negative consumer stories that get a lot more play than they deserve in the popular media, there is a long-term vision inherent in this industry's focus. There's also a ton of technical and operational brilliance -- and, quite frankly, a large and encouraging measure of hope and faith -- that's going to get us where we need to go in this decade. New questions posted about the future beg for answers -- get involved in the discussion.
Set-top boxes underscore need for customer engagement
The inefficiencies of "always-on" DVR set-top boxes, which in aggregate waste billions of kilowatt-hours per year in the U.S., underscores the need for customer engagement and a proactive utility stance on electronics creep. This is a variation on the phantom load issue, one that needs to be addressed.
Obama focus on EVs cuts off Bush initiative
Hydrogen fuel cells hold the promise of abundant energy and low pollution, possibly replacing oil in transportation and other applications. The challenge is to extract it, store it and transport it in a cost-effective manner. That work is advancing, but the Obama Administration has emphasized electric vehicles and reversed the hydrogen focus of the Bush Administration.
Public-private partnerships touted as model
The Obama Administration, technology investors and our columnist tout the efficacy of public-private partnerships as cost-effective means to spark innovations that will fuel economic growth. Our columnist argues that a heavy hand in budget cutting could imperil these efforts.
Demand may be rising, due to storms and aesthetics
Storm-ravaged utilities, particularly in the Southeast, increasingly are placing new transmission lines underground. Aesthetics, too, are driving "undergrounding." Costs remain multiples of overhead lines. And serving underground lines is difficult, costly and time-consuming. Read this column for examples of projects that are proceeding.
Customer service is going mobile
In today's market, customers expect their service providers to communicate through a variety of channels, according to their individual preferences. When a utility can provide choices in how and when customers can interact with it, that can build a better relationship with the customer.
Given the prevalence of smartphones, it has surprised to me that most utilities have not exploited this channel to allow customers to pay their bills and manage their accounts. A recent announcement from TXU Energy may signal that this is changing.
New association focuses on advocacy and education
Over the past year, smart meters have been both exalted and reviled by electricity consumers. From coast to coast, electric utilities' smart meter deployments have received mixed responses from state regulators, public utility commissions and consumers alike. Last week's announcement of the newly formed the Smart Meter Manufacturers' Association of America offers the industry a cohesive smart meter advocacy and education group, as president Dave Elve explains here.