Startups Help Utilities Unlock Greater Potential

Startup MeterGenius helps ComEd to harness smart meter potential by improving customer engagement tactics.
Published: Tue 12 Jan 2016

The demand for innovation and entrepreneurship in the sustainable energy and cleantech space is increasing, especially when it comes to finding solutions to overcome challenges like climate change, and resource constraints.

Startups playing a crucial role

Utilities are beginning to understand the value of employing or partnering with those that think out of the box because it has become clear that the energy system of the future will be lost without innovation. Outdated business models and infrastructure call for major changes if utilities are to provide the complex service structure that end customers are demanding today. In addition to this, utilities have to meet certain environmental goals in order to help combat the effects of climate change. Some face penalties if these are not met. Failure to meet these expectations could mean closure for some utility businesses in this highly competitive and volatile market.

The recently formed partnership between Commonwealth Edison (ComEd)  and startup MeterGenius is a good indication that new and innovative companies continue to play a crucial role in moving the energy sector to new and exciting heights.  

MeterGenius, a customer engagement company, is a creation of Northwestern University’s NUvention, an energy entrepreneurship course. The programme is part of ComEd's SmartGridExchange, which is a forum to connect the utility with local colleges and startups aimed at developing smart grid technology. 

Innovation unlocking potential

ComEd partnered with the startup to fully harness the potential of smart meters. The utility has already tapped almost 6,500 customers and given them enhanced access to their energy use data via MeterGenius. Selected customers will have unlimited access to MeterGenius’ web and mobile applications, which give detailed energy usage analysis on an hourly, daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Val Jensen, ComEd’s senior vice president of Customer Operations says that the innovative smart meter solutions will benefit their customers by giving them control to monitor their energy use, lower their consumption and reduce their monthly electric costs.

Those selected will also receive monthly communications with "customizable tips on how to lower their electricity bills, and energy efficient habit reminders such as defrosting your freezer on a regular basis in order to increase its efficiency.

“By providing incentives for customers to control electricity use, we believe we can help promote sustainable energy habits while also helping customers save money,” MeterGenius CEO Ty Benefiel said.

Utilities can’t do it alone  

The current marketplace can be daunting for utilities. It requires utilities to improve their customer engagement strategies as today’s customers expect a higher level of interaction. They want personalized advice when it comes to reducing their energy consumption and environmental footprint and they expect this information to be supplied at the touch of a button. [Appliance Energy Efficiency Platform To Boost Customer Engagement]

Utilities find themselves being compared to other industries like banking and online retail sites that have already adopted innovative business models and realise that they need to catch up in order to stay ahead.

Business models of yesteryear are no longer relevant and, in order to be successful in this highly competitive market, utilities will be well served to partner with these innovative startups. [Bringing Innovation To The Energy Industry In A Sustainable Way]