Smart Metering - Is it really changing the face of Utilities
The benefits of Smart (Advanced) Metering deployments have been quantified in many different ways by established business cases from major Utility companies. But, has the industry been able to reach a state where we can measure the true benefit realization from Smart Metering deployments?
It is interesting to note that adoption of Smart Metering is broadly intended to change the way consumers perceive their Utility company from someone who merely provides electricity/gas service to one who provides innovative products and services. However, major Utilities who have deployed Smart meters partially or fully are yet to change the perception of consumers. The primary question one needs to ask - are consumers really changing their consumption behavioral patterns based on the new services being launched, such as online usage analysis, alerts to energy savings programs such as Demand Response?
Actively engaging the consumer to participate in the new paradigm of services and features is probably the most critical success factor of Smart Metering deployments. Utilities should actively explore options to provide newer avenues of services that can be achieved through Smart Meter deployments. This can include introducing customers with concepts that will excite them - such as the 'Smart home of the future', and ensuring that consumers understand how such services will enable their future digital life-style. Some aspects that Utilities would need to consider are:
- Integrate customers as a key stakeholder in the process, by, providing them access to information real-time, any time
- Enable information sharing through varied channels of communication, such as web, mobile devices, kiosks and probably even ATM machines
- Send relevant alerts on mobile devices and phones with interesting tips
- Smart home devices and integrated and intuitive display of energy usage patterns
- Comprehensive and inclusive consumer education process
In summary, the next generation of Smart Metering deployments should focus on the end consumer as the theme, rather than Utility business and operations.