When Smart Meter Customers Eyes are Opened

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Eve was walking in the Garden of Eden gathering food and came upon the serpent.  The serpent told Eve to taste the fruit from the large tree in the center of the garden, but she was afraid.  ‘God told us not to eat from that tree or we will die’ she replied.  ‘You will not die,’ replied the serpent, ‘for God knows when you eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil your eyes will be opened and you will see that you are naked.’ (Genesis 2)

Utilities have been the primary beneficiary of smart meters to date in the form of lower meter reading costs, better access to demand insight, and outage information, but the price they are paying for leaving customers behind in the smart meter deployment process is a loss of control over the gateway to customers in the future when those customers ‘eyes are opened’ and they realize they are ‘naked in a smart grid world’ and can no longer count on their utility to protect their interests.  That will forever change the nature of the utility customer relationship.

OK, OK, I admit I was day dreaming in church that Sunday during a long sermon.  The reading that day was from Genesis.  I have heard it many times, but that Sunday I was thinking about the smart meter research project I was working on—and I saw the meaning of the reading in a new light.

Quit laughing and listen up, you serpents!

The rush to install smart meters is leaving customers feeling naked as utilities are driven by deadlines for Federal stimulus grants, state regulatory orders to control costs to reduce looming rate impacts, and political correctness layering renewable energy, dynamic pricing, demand response, energy efficiency and other programs on top to satisfy politicians and special interest group.

Customers can see the smart grid tree of life but fear tasting the fruit will kill them with higher bills. The result has been the pushback I have described as ‘the Bakersfield Effect’ after the place where it hit the fan first when angry customers came to a ‘feel good’ utility smart meter public relations event waving their utility bills and complaining that their new smart meters caused rate spikes. Smart meters, of course, are not the only cause of higher utility rates, but they are often the most visible change utility customers see so that new smart meter on the side of the gets the blame.

This brings us to the ‘eyes wide open and we see that we are naked’ big reality in the transition to our smart grid future.  Utilities are good at providing reliable service, but most utilities still see customers as “load” and treat us in classes with one size fits all approaches to residential, commercial and industrial customers. But now with our eyes opened we see that it does not have to be this way.

Disruptive Technology is a Customers’ Friend

That’s it, don’t you see it?  Getting real customer benefits from smart grid technology requires choices to get the services, expertise and prices we want, when we want it, bundled just as we like it.  We will not die if we taste this forbidden fruit but it will change forever the way we deal with many of our energy, communications, entertainment, broadband and security monitoring service providers.

Our eyes are wide open and we realize we can BUNDLE! Unhappy with AT&T or Comcast or ADP?  Dump them and bundle your services with a new provider and get a package price that can save you a bundle.

Are We Out of Milk? That new refrigerator will likely have embedded technology that sends information to your home area network (HAN) to help solve the vexing problems of the day.  Scan the bar code on that empty milk carton and then call up your shopping list while at the store for all the items you need.

We are discovering that ‘there’s an app’ on our smart phones for just about everything and we now know that our utility must tell us our energy use information from our smart meter so we can provide it to new vendors eager to install solar panels on the roof, automate our HVAC, let us turn lights on and off, stream video, and do a hundred other things we choose all providing customer benefits from smart meter technologies our utility was clueless about.

No longer will we be dependent upon our local utility controlling the gateway to each customer. The customer will be in charge and we want our meters to run backward, our video to stream at lightning speed, our information to be safely kept in the cloud for 24/7 access anywhere and we want it all to work on our smart phone.  No wire, no cable boxes, no hassles!

Our eyes are wide open to the power of embedded technology, customer driven applications and taking back control over our lives turning the table on our utility and other service providers. Our smart meter is our friend by liberating us from our utility, opening our eyes to the power of disruptive technology and giving us that liberating, exhilarating feeling of ‘going rogue’ as we seize control of the gateway to our HAN defended castle.

Then my wife punches me telling me the sermon is over and it’s time to stand up and pray!  I had a lot to be thankful for that Sunday for my eyes were wide open.