Electric power's five biggest challenges: Part Five -- Planning for empowered consumers

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A decade ago, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) primed the smart grid pump with a Grid Vision workshop in Washington, DC. Many of today's smart grid concepts and policies can be traced back to that seminal meeting.

 

Now DOE has partnered with the GridWise Alliance (GWA) to hold four regional workshops followed by an Executive Summit in Washington, DC to once again develop a stakeholder-driven vision of the future grid. As a participant, I received background materials in advance.

 

Those materials included thoughtful discussions of five future scenarios. Or, if you prefer, five future challenges. They did such a good job of framing the issues that I asked permission to share them with you in a series of articles.

 

Part Five in the series talks about the challenge created by informed, empowered customers. At the end, you'll find a handful of questions. I invite you to use the Talk Back form at the bottom of the page to leave your own answers and opinions. When the series has finished, I will share the comments with the DOE for their consideration as they set the agenda for the next 10 years. - Jesse Berst

 

By Steve Hauser and Becky Harrison

 

In the past, most residential and small commercial customers had little choice in how they met their electric power needs. It was much like the days when Henry Ford made his famous statement “People can have the Model T in any color – so long as it’s black.” Customers were at the mercy of their electric power utility.

 

Our industry's former mindset can be seen in the fact that we typically referred to “rate payers” not “customers.” Going forward, grid owners and operators must change this mindset and gain a better understanding of customer needs and preferences.

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