Magazine article CRM Magazine

Empowered Consumers Are Ready to Flip the Switch: Utilities Have to Contend with Customers Seeking More Control of Their Power Consumption

Magazine article CRM Magazine

Empowered Consumers Are Ready to Flip the Switch: Utilities Have to Contend with Customers Seeking More Control of Their Power Consumption

Article excerpt

For virtually anyone who has needed gas for their car, oil to heat their homes, or electricity to run appliances and keep the lights on, it's painfully clear that energy costs have been skyrocketing in the United States. Instead of grinning and bearing the gaping hole in their wallets, though, customers--growing accustomed to having more control in other purchasing areas--are now trying to both figuratively and literally take power back into their own hands.

"High energy costs are forcing consumers to scrutinize and become more aware of their energy consumption," explains Zarco Sumic, a vice president and distinguished analyst focusing on the energy-and-utilities space for industry research firm Gartner. "This is creating a phenomenon known as energy consumerization."

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Sumic says that providers in this area have had complete control over deployment technologies such as transformers, the types of high voltage lines, and installation. Now, though, customers are beginning to do with energy and utilities what they did with their information technology--getting their own. "Consumers are now installing their own energy sources such as solar power, wind turbines, fuel cells, and others," he says.

Sumic says the industry isn't quite ready to support consumers going it alone, either. "This changes the entire picture now," he explains. "The actual delivery infrastructure is really not built to support the [energy consumerization] model:" He goes on to explain that as far as delivery infrastructure goes, most providers are still decades behind. "The network, grid, and information haven't really changed significantly from the time of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla," he adds.

Michael Gerrasch, director for energy and utilities at Germany-based Software AG, a global provider of business infrastructure software, says he recognizes the winds of change in the form of alternative energy. He says the more-pressing trend, though, is the consumer-level demand for more control over exercising and monitoring existing energy consumption.

"We're seeing more progressive [developments] when we start talking about items like 'smart metering,' which really gets into some more proactive versus reactive types of customer interactions," he says, specifically noting the smart meters in California that can extract detailed information on individual energy consumption and usage. …

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