With help from a data startup, a major California utility boosts participation in an energy management program.
Big data isn’t much use if you don’t know what to do with it.
Utilities are collecting unprecedented amounts of information from the millions of smart meters installed in recent years, but the capacity to collect data seems largely to have overwhelmed companies and regulators. Processes designed for a world run on paper billing and planned excess capacity are of diminishing effectiveness in one defined by interactive usage and distributed generation.
That has left the door open for data scientists and data startups to compete with some of the established business service providers themselves rushing to better understand, analyze and use the insights raw data can provide. Two-year-old company Gridium started selling its advice and analytics for power bills the old-fashioned way — door-to-door — and is taking the insight it has into customer priorities and matching that to generator priorities as market rules and operating realities shift.
Gridium already manages approximately 100 million square feet of space, and recently announced a direct partnership with one of the country’s largest utilities, PG&E. Based on an analytical overview of the California energy provider’s customers, the company developed a targeted turnkey marketing campaign for the utility that boosted participation in a key energy management program.
“Demand-side management program marketing is often felt to be wasted, but analytics and segmentation could greatly enhance” these programs, Gridium co-founder and CEO Tom Arnold said in a recent discussion of the campaign. California power tariffs enable customers to save money by limiting use during certain peak energy use events. These kinds of initiatives have been in place around the country for years, but adoption has been limited, in part because “the conversation about tariffs at commissions and in utilities is very divorced from the reality on the ground, which is focused on ‘How much will I save?’” Arnold said.
The next step for Gridium will be to coach PG&E’s customers through these peak energy use events, now that so many more of them have responded to its targeted messaging.
The installation of smart meters is set to accelerate and provide ever more detailed information to a wide variety of firms and customers in energy and beyond, and companies like Gridium will be providing the next level of analysis and engagement based on that data to help companies and regulators move forward with segmenting, prioritizing and putting into action their plans and objectives based on data-driven insights.