Accelerating Clean Energy Future Timeline in Biden Era, Part 2

The inauguration of the president of the United States, Joe Biden, on January 20, 2021 marked the commencement of his four-year term as the president of the United States.  He and his administration immediately got to work addressing the country’s biggest challenges.  One of his leading agenda items is delivering a clean energy future through his Build Back Better plan by 2035.  The days of producing energy that creates greenhouse emissions must end.  

Importance of Customer-Centricity 

To achieve clean energy goals, utilities—as the largest producer of greenhouse gases—will play a monumental role.  As they say, “teamwork makes the dream work,” so their job includes enticing customers to do their part.  To do this, utilities must rebuild their companies to be more customer-centric.  Customer-centricity builds the advocacy, trust, and hope to move the needle in the right direction.  

To achieve clean energy goals, utilities—as the largest producer of greenhouse gases—will play a monumental role.  As they say, “teamwork makes the dream work,” so their job includes enticing customers to do their part.  To do this, utilities must rebuild their companies to be more customer-centric.  Customer-centricity builds the advocacy, trust, and hope to move the needle in the right direction.  

According to the 2017 Accenture article “44 percent of energy consumers say they have no interest in interacting at all with energy providers”.  It is noted in the article “Towards customer-centric energy utilities – A granular data-driven bottom-up approach to understanding energy customer trends,” that the customer is often referred to a ‘meter’, ‘connection point’, ‘behind the meter load’, and in doing so customers are not being represented as a valuable stakeholder that interacts with the energy system in unique ways”.  It is time to do away with old practices and reinvent new ones to inspire the utility workforce to better serve clients. 

Advancing Customer-Centricity through the Utility Workforce 

To help with evolving customer expectations, the utility workforce must adopt a customer-centric culture.  For this to happen an internal change is necessary.  Change management is going to be one of the best activities to make this happen.  Mthink defines change management as “a structured approach to business transformation that manages the transition from a current state to a desired future state.”  Utility businesses must prioritize shifting their culture from using their traditional business model to a model that engages and empowers their clients and workforce. 

Empowered People Empower People 

One of the ways customer-centricity can be advanced is to engage leadership.  You cannot have a customer-centric culture without empowerment.  The behavior of senior leaders set the tone for the rest of the team.  First, it’s important to hire leaders with attitudes and beliefs that align with the organization’s beliefs.  Passion is power.   

Second, it is important to hire leaders that understand and can project to their team that each member has an impact on the quality of service received.  When employees understand this concept, they can be more cautious of customer experience throughout the entire operation.  The customer should be at the front of every interaction even if the employee doesn’t contact them.  Customers must be treated as unique individuals rather than a connection point.   

An Epsilon research study indicates that, “80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences.” This is a good opportunity to create individualized packages that support Biden’s clean energy goals and support the needs of the customer.  

This can be achieved is by merging customer facing departments.  Green Tech Media reports that “different groups contact consumers about different products, but it would be better if utilities were only contacting customers once.”  Energy consumers are interested in producing their own electricity and lowering their carbon footprint, but it becomes overwhelming when too many people contact them.  However, some energy consumers have also taken renewable energy production entirely into their own hands, cutting out utility organizations all together. There needs to be a middle ground.   

To meet Biden’s goals, utilities must make renewable energy more accessible for the customer while keeping in mind that customers are also looking for ways to save money.  This is where those individualized packages and customer relationships will come into play.  Utilities should form relationships with their customers to guide them towards the clean energy future as seamlessly as possible.  Utilities are experiencing a shift form merely being a provider to an energy advisor.  It is important to engage with customers, form relationships, and build trust, high levels of customer satisfaction will lead to loyalty and future referrals.  

Consumer Involvement in Reaching a Sustainable Future  

It is apparent that there is an interest in sustainable energy across residential and commercial consumers.  With declining prices on renewable energy sources such as solar panels, businesses and residents have begun taking energy efficiency into their own hands.  

  • Most consumers are already interested in sustainability:  
    • Most residential consumers are environmentally conscious and want to do more to reduce their carbon footprint.  According to the 2017 Deloitte study, “63% of residential consumers are very concerned with climate change and their personal carbon footprint”.  There is also pressure from residential consumers on businesses to use clean energy.  The study also states that “61% of businesses stated their consumers demand a certain percentage of energy comes from renewable resources”.  Most consumers are interested in reducing price first, and environmental sustainability second.  That being said, utilities must be creative and push energy reduction programs, incentives for switching to renewable energy sources, and making renewable energy easily accessible. 
  • Consumer to prosumer:  
    • With declining prices on wind and solar power, consumers are moving behind the meter to produce their own energy.  This is great in the case of pursuing a 100% clean energy future, but not so great for utility businesses.  In this case, consumers would now be prosumers, people who both consume and produce energy.  Utilities should focus on creating relationships with prosumers because, when prosumers make too much energy, they can sell it back to the grid.  The U.S. Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Initiative is working to create a bidirectional flow rather than a one-way street, expanding accessibility to more customers.  Utility businesses should still empower those that choose that produce their own power.  With this in mind, its important to form partnerships and connections to capitalize off prosumers.  

Conclusion 

Advancing customer-centricity is going to be the best method to creating a clean energy future.  It’s time to do away with old practices and implement new ones that support today’s customers.  This means having a workforce that is empowered and ready to form relationships with and empower customers.  It also means understanding customer needs and keeping in mind clean energy goals to create individualized products.  The customer needs to be a part of every operation throughout the organization.    

If the interest and accessibility of clean energy resources continue, then the success of Biden’s plan and a 100% Clean Energy Future are likely.  People are now taking power into their own hands.  Instead of letting a disconnection happen, utility businesses should be interested in seeing how they can continue to push clean energy marketing on commercial and residential consumers.  They should also empower prosumers, because while they may not be directly purchasing energy from utilities, they are a valuable stakeholder.  There is already a major interest in the clean energy future, it is the duty of utilities to facilitate the means necessary to achieve Biden’s goal.