Social Media-Essential to Smart Grid Advancement

Utilities are using social media to capitalize on the benefits of smart grid.
Published: Thu 24 Apr 2014

The adoption of Smart Grid is bringing about major transition challenges for electric utilities. Not only does this shift represent a technical revolution, it also results in big changes for the energy consumer.

New strategic approach

In order to maintain and grow their customer base, it is critical for utilities to establish a new strategic approach to customer engagement which will drive greater levels of commitment. This is essential since effective customer engagement plays a key role in achieving smart grid implementation success. A lack of customer interest and knowledge of Smart Grid programs continues to be the number one obstacle to Smart Grid advancement and adoption. In the US, 15% of the population currently has a negative view of Smart Grid

In recognition of this, electric utilities in the US are expanding their use of social media and mobile applications. Not only are they using it as a tool to improve customer engagement, they are also using it as a way to capitalize on the benefits of smart grid. This is according to a report from Deloitte, “Getting Smart Grid customers plugged in-motivating change through mobile and social technology”.

Social media is critical

Research from Northeast Group LLC shows that of the 50 largest US utilities, 49 currently have active Twitter accounts, all have Facebook accounts and 15 have mobile applications. These figures show that utilities are beginning to realize that social media is critical to reaching customers during power outages, as well as providing tips on saving energy, account payments and many other customer engagement services.

On average, utilities boast over 11,000 Twitter followers (just 0.8 percent of customers), tweet 36 times a week, and respond to customer comments within 28 minutes through the use of social media. The top three utilities for social media are currently Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW); Los Angeles Department of Water and Power; and Dominion. study also found that a correlation exists between the quality of a utility's social media activity and the level of engagement of their customers. Over a one-week period, 40 of the top 50 utilities responded to customer comments via Twitter. Over the same period, 33 of the 50 utilities provided energy savings tips for customers and 20 of the 50 posted safety tips.

Among the 50 utilities, at least 43 had a mobile website. The top three utilities for mobile apps were San Diego Gas & Electric, MLGW and Con Edison -- a ranking that took into consideration the functionality and quality of these utilities' mobile applications.

Revolutionizing capabilities

Increased operational data, or "big data," is also enabling utilities to improve their mobile applications as utilities are developing their own mobile applications and social media content and also working with third parties to implement their mobile strategies, as well as customer engagement platforms.

Utilities have two choices: capitalize on Smart Grid implementation in order to revolutionize their capabilities or view the change as another operational challenge to be endured.

Those that take advantage of this period of change will end up being in a better position to succeed in a future of increasingly volatile and uncertain regulatory and technical demands.

Further Reading

Deloitte-Getting Smart Grid customers plugged in-Motivating change through mobile and social technology [pdf]